I’m back in LA and, as if we were still living in China, I get a case of severe culture shock when we get back. Oh yes, you might not think so but LA has a very distinct culture. And it’s hands-down more noticeable when you get back than when you’re in the moment.
It got me thinking, how do you define LA. Here are five things that make LA … LA.
1. The Faces
Oh My God, the faces. These dermatologists and plastic surgeons are having the last laugh–aging men and women are lining up, chucking all their cash at them and they’re laughing all the way to the Bank. Just for a minute I wonder if they truly looked at themselves in the mirror could they face the fact that they look like clowns. Unattractive clowns with mouths that look like Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, plump lips that are disproportional with their face and foreheads–shiny smooth foreheads–that cover half their face. Big cheeks plumped up with so much filler it’s not helping–in fact it’s making things all the worse.
The day after I arrived, I was walking into a shop minding my own business when I looked up and came eye to eye with a 60-plus year old lady, not a wrinkle in sight, forehead from here to eternity and big, big eyes that were so wrong on so many levels. I actually physically jumped with fright. No, in LA botox is simply not enough. Give me aging gracefully anyday.
2. Gym gear
Sure I see people in Australia in gym gear, I may have spotted the odd person in London, I can’t say I saw anyone in Paris but back in LA every second person is in their gym (or yoga?–said with a Valley-girl accent) gear. And, like me if I decide to fit in with the LA look, they haven’t been to the gym. Their fully made up looking perfect and the gym gear could actually be a way for them to tell the world their favourite meal is kale salad. They take the active wear phenomenon to a whole new level. Lululemon has a lot to answer for.
It’s not hard peoples, buy some nice shoes, a skirt, a dress, even a pair of pants or shorts with a nice top–these outfits aren’t reserved for going out. You can actually wear them out during the day and feel good about yourselves.
3. It’s all about me
You may think with the number of celebrities in LA I’m talking about them. Oh no. LA seems to have bred itself a culture of self-absorbed, very important, all-about-me people. And that’s hard to take when you like a bit of the spotlight and glory yourself.
You need to go somewhere/anywhere, you need to get in your car and drive. And if you don’t have your car you hop in an Uber or Lyft. That might even be a short trip down the road: walking is not the thing to do. Let’s face it with Valet parking top notch here you don’t even walk to/from your car. Nope, LA is not the place to be carless.
And that means there are millions of cars on the road. And, with the said entitlement culture, there are a lot of people on the road who are in a hurry to get somewhere and you need to get out of their way, or read their mind when they cut you off or turn without indicating. LA drivers are anything but polite or patient.
Even as I was writing this I had an incident in the Westfield carpark at Century City. They have a smart parking system which reads and detects your numberplate on entry. Then if you download the app and register your numberplate/registration, as you exit it charges the parking to your credit card–at a discounted fee. Who wouldn’t be all about that?
So, I went in not bothering about being close to the ticket machine. The system glitched (misread my numberplate–doh) and I had to essentially get out of my car to get my ticket. Just before I could do this a young very unlady-like chick pulled up and immediately started beeping at me. Obviously in a hurry you can bet she judged me for being so far from the booth. I gave her lip and got my ticket. She beeped again before I could even shut my door. And proceeded to beep until I drove through the boomgates.
Now seriously, do you think I enjoy spending my time getting a ticket out of the machine at a carpark entrance? Hell I don’t even like paying for parking. So now I’m pissed off and I am giving her lip and–of course–taking my sweet time. Because chick, who thinks she’s more important than anyone else in a hurry at Westfield Century City, here’s a tip, just because you’re tooting me does not mean I’m going to be all like “oh-my-god-I-better-hurry”; in fact you can bet I’m going to take my sweet time and piss you off even more. And I hope you were late to whatever important thing you had to do.
5. The Sushi is so so good
The first place we go to eat when we get back–and the last place we go before we leave–is one of our favourite sushi joints. LA has bloody good sushi. Not only is it fresh but it’s innovative and different. You can get any number of different roll combinations and the spicy tuna is to die for. Did someone say crispy rice? YES PLEASE. Yes, if it’s one thing LA does well, hands down it’s sushi.
Don’t get me wrong, I love LA for more than just the sushi. Five years on I’m happy to have good friends and call LA home. But sometimes LA can be hard to bear–once you’re in it’s fine but when you drop back in it takes a little while to get your LA groove back on. When I lived in China we used to need “get out of China breaks”. For the record is a bit the same.
But LA is a bit like being on drugs or having a really good “one-night stand”: you know you should wean yourself off but at the time it’s so good you just want to go back. One more time.
An Australian’s perspective–an Australian applying for American College from the US.
What a relief: we live to tell the tale! I’ve tried to avoid boring you with woeful tales of stress about applying to get into College in the US as Australians living here. Although I do think it’s easier because we live here, it is all so different from what we’re used to–and there is a lot of pressure over here while you endure the process–that it turns into a very stressful time. And, because of that, I thought I should write about being an Australian applying for American College from the US.
So much easier at this end of the process too, let me tell you.
If you could see me now my head is swollen with pride. I’m kicking back patting myself on the back for not only having a smart son get into College but for helping him through application time and trying really hard not to pester him too much.
Of course it’s me who has done all the work isn’t it?
OK, not really the hard, hard work, just the love, guidance and inspiration. But enough about me, here’s a little step-by-step guide as to what you need to consider when applying your HSCer/VCEer/Senior/Year 12er to College in America. At least, here’s a step-by-step guide of the what we went through to apply to College here in the US.
It’s a big part of the process to go on College tours here. Not everyone does it but many, many do. There’s a big belief here that you have to feel where you’re applying to to see if you like it and whether you can picture yourself there. It makes a lot of sense seeing as a) your kid will be spending their next four years there but also b) and perhaps more importantly that your hard-earnt coin is going to be shelled out there.
On the upside many of these Colleges are amazing places to visit in their own right on beautiful grounds and full of history and intrigue. On the downside you invest a lot of time, effort and money into going around the country visiting these institutions. Most of the Colleges have great online/virtual visits so don’t worry too much about this step if you can’t make it happen.
TIP: Book your trips early and before you commit to airfares and accommodation make sure you can book a space on the tour–they book out faster than you can say, “Will we check out Harvard?”
Bonus TIP: If you like the sound of the College but can’t visit apply and if you get in then arrange to visit before you commit.
This is the total stress ball part of the process. While many Colleges link themselves to a thing called the Common App (where you can apply to multiple Colleges in a single app) it’s a little deceiving because most Colleges still want you to answer their own special questions. What it’s great for though is not having to write your name, address and date of birth 15 different times.
Even though you apply to many of these Colleges on one Common App you still have to pay to have your ACT or SAT sent to all the different places–no free ride there unless you are eligible for financial aid. Remember peoples this is a business. And you still have to pay an application fee per College you apply to–yep that beautiful thing called capitalism.
Speaking of SAT & ACT
I hate to bring this up, especially if you’re in Australia reading this and are wonderfully oblivious to what goes on here in the US. Mark my words there is a lot of tutoring, studying and sitting and resitting of those exams that goes on here. At least it does in LA.
The good thing about this application process, however, is that they read the application based on your student–where they’re from and what the situation is in their corner of the world. So if you’re just doing your SAT or ACT once and you live in Australia I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
By the way, my son was happy with his SAT score and decided to only sit it once. We were happy with him for making that decision. While he may have got some extra marks we were never sure if the score would make a difference. Also Colleges get to see how many times you sit the test and even if they take the best one you have to wonder when they think it took you four goes to get there–or what they think when you decide to only take it once!
How many Colleges should I apply to?
So this questions depends on where you live and the peer group pressure around you. At College Prep schools (aka private schools here in LA) there are a lot of applications that get sent out. The average may be around 12 but it can be from as “few” as eight to as many as 20. That’s a lot of work. Let me repeat, that’s a lot of work.
Your essay–your story–is so vitally important spend some time thinking about it and how you want yourself to be seen. There are books and articles written on this topic alone so I can’t properly give my two-cents worth on this here; except to say really try to think outside the box; without looking like you’re really trying to think outside the box. Of course it helps if you’re a good writer but if you’re not that strong make up for it in the content and have someone like an English teacher at school help you edit and give you feedback.
If you’re applying via the Common app don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll only have to write one essay too. Remember this Blog post when we were going through the arduous process? Yep, there are (or at least can be) a lot of questions and they can be really hard to answer–especially for us Australians who aren’t necessarily very good at telling people how good we are.
Each College has extra questions they want you to answer; and these are time-consuming! Some Colleges want 100-word responses, others 25 words, others one word-answers and of course others again want another essay. Whatever they are asking for though know what they want and prepare for it ahead of time. Your “story” will invariably have a few different elements to it and knowing these questions and drafting the answers ahead of time will help you refine your application.
TIP: Start your essay and extra questions before school starts (if you’re at school in the US). Once you start school there’s a lot to do and there’s not a lot of time (or energy) for extra work.
The Calm before the storm
Enjoy this time, it’s the best! It’s the time between early January and end of February/early March when you can’t do a single thing. Applications are closed and now you have to sit and wait. But stressing isn’t going to help so you may as well keep up your grades and have a good time.
The stress comes back in the form of acceptances–will I or won’t I get into the Colleges I’ve applied to.
There’s quite an etiquette that goes along with asking whether they got in. Basically everyone knows pretty well what day (and sometimes the time) acceptances come out. It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment and hover over your senior while they’re bracing themselves for whether they get into the School of their dreams or not.
In our house we “disappeared” downstairs basically waiting for sobs or screams. In actual fact we got no sobs as the rejections were “reach” schools where he really just wanted to see if he had a shot of getting in. There were screams of joy and happily for us he got into the schools we thought he would. #yay
To increase the stress there are sites like College Confidential that provide hours of searching and reading other people’s stories. I don’t advise looking. But then again …
National Candidate Reply Date
May 1 is National Candidate Reply Date. This is basically your deadline date to say to your College of choice, yes I’m in. But sometimes it’s not always that easy. You might be waitlisted at your first choice or you might be waitlisted at more than one. Either way this is decision crunch day. Hopefully for you it’s the easy bit though. Good luck.
Applying to Australian Uni from the US
But what do you do if the shoe is on the other foot? How does an Australian living in the US apply for Uni in Australia? Well assuming you’re an Australian citizen the good news is you absolutely can and it’s a pretty easy process. I put in a couple of inquiries and found you just have to apply like everyone else in Australia. The ACT or SAT is accepted and Unis publish the equivalent score you need to get into your Course of choice.
Sydney Uni sent me a score conversion table which laid everything out really clearly. (The link takes you to the 2018 version of the entry guide, fyi). UTS said it didn’t do it and asked me to contact the Universities Admissions Centre, UAC.
If the Uni of your choice doesn’t publish a table and, like UTS, they send you to UAC here’s the reply you get:
If you wish to purchase a UAC Schedule which has the university rank for the achievement in your overseas Year 12 study it will cost $A95.00, payable by credit/debit card (MasterCard and Visa).
Please write to the Managing Director and include the following information:
Your email address including+ daytime telephone number
Country of Origin
Alternatively, you can call our office on +61 2 9752 0200 and request and pay over the phone.
Please sign your letter. Post your request to:
Locked Bag 112
Silverwater NSW 2128
I asked UAC about timing of applications etc. The bummer is that if you want to compare offers it’s pretty hard given the school calendars don’t match. We were thinking of it as a positive though, and thinking a nine-month gap “year” is a pretty good thing. I also had the peer group pressure thing sorted out and was going to buy my son a Gap sweatshirt to wear in the obligatory “College photo.”
The other good thing about the gap is you have time to resit your SAT after your kids’ senior year is done if you don’t quite have the right score. This takes the pressure off having to do it while they’re at school trying to work hard to get the marks or GPA they’re after.
Applications for 2019 admissions will open on our website early August.
When he applies he will need to request his SAT results are released by the College Board directly to us, our institution code is 3719. He will also need to upload his High School Diploma to his application to show completion.
Applying to UAC
As Australian citizens we apply as domestic students. Here’s a link to a video which shows you step-by-step how to apply. Here’s the relevant page on tHE UAC website too which says
Now that we’re done I thought I’d do a quick addition of what applying for College here cost me seeing as I’ve bitched and moaned a bit throughout the last 18 months. I really did it the cheap way with very few College visits.
But. Everything here comes at a price–it’s how America is a “great” nation–there’s an industry for everything.
Education up to High School might be free but if you want to do extra subjects (at some high schools) you have to pay; if you want to do Advanced Placement (AP) subjects, you have to pay registration fees and an exam fee. If you want a tutor to help you through your SAT or ACT you have to pay. If you want to go to private school you have to sit an entrance exam and that costs money (and most of the time parents pay for tutoring to sit the exam so that costs more money). but I digress. Here we go.
Tutor for SATs $960
Visiting Berkeley & Stanford $500 for food, lodging & parking
Sitting for the SAT $60
Sitting for the SAT Subject exams (three exams, one sitting) $80
Visiting USC $10 parking–bargain!
Submitting SAT scores to Colleges $60
AP Scores $75 plus again this year
Stanford application $90
UCs application (UCLA & UC Berkeley) $140
USC application $85
NYU application $80
Harvard application $75
SORT OF TOTAL (I wouldn’t call it Grand Total) $2115
If you’re Australian applying to College from Australia
It can still be done. I had a friend who did it all herself for her fabulous runner and he got a free ride into an American College. The steps are the same, the application is essentially the same–you just apply as an International student. But guess what? We also had to apply as an International student. It’s all possible!
If you are a sport spice I recommend reaching out to Coaches via each College’s athletics webpages. Each sport provides guidelines. And, if you’re lucky enough to be considered not only will they offer you a free ride but they may well offer to tour you through the campus–on their coin! Yep, College athletics is huge. And that’s a whole other story …
Do you celebrate Australia Day in LA? Did I tell you about the first and the last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA? It was a doozy. So much so that it was about four years ago. Each year I think about holding another Australia Day party and each year I get cold feet.
This year is no different. Given it falls on a Friday I asked my son if he wanted to have some mates over to celebrate Australia Day. I had it all planned in my head.
Drinks are easy: Australian beer, Australian wine and Australian soft drink (that would be “soda” to you Americans and “pop” to you Brits.
Fortunately I was sent some Bundaberg Ginger Beer from my now best mates over at Bundaberg (keep them coming guys!). So I had the drinks covered, not just from the soft drink side but Bundaberg Ginger Beer (synonymous in our house by the generic name of just “Ginger Beer”–in other words there is no other ginger beer) makes the best Moscow Mules. Like EVER! Tick.
Also very easy–although much easier when my mates Garlo’s was in town. (Taking a minute’s silence to mourn their loss).
So a simple Barbie–snags (sausages) in bread for the kiddos and some prawns (shrimp) for the grown ups. Throw in some mini pies and sausage rolls to start with and I’ll bet you’re salivating right now.
Of course there would be pavlova and Tim Tams for dessert and if everyone was lucky we’d break open the stash of party mix. What wouldn’t be on the menu is breaking open our (very small and sacred) stash of Violet Crumbles. What would be even more mouth-wateringly scrumptious would be to break open some Golden Gaytimes. How I wish we could package them up and bring them home with us.
For those of you not in the know, Gaytimes are the most divine ice-creams you can buy–the epitome of heaven on a stick.
Side note for my Aussie mates. Did you know Wonderpies in Melbourne has a Golden Gaytime Pie? Seriously. Seriously. When I head home again I’ve got them lined up to send me a few. I hear they’re bloody good.
Golden Gaytime Pies
Sidenote two, we got very excited to see some product growth in the Gaytime family to the Gaytime Cornettos–Gaynetto for short.
Back to the would-be party. Obviously the theming was covered. I brought over Australia Day flags and other paraphernalia when we moved over so one flag as the tablecloth and another flag flying proudly and a bit of blue & white colouring to finish it all off.
So with everything set to go in my mind it’d be great to celebrate where we’re from and share a lot of love from Australia. So what went so wrong last time we had an Australia Day party?
The last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA
It’s a good story. And perhaps enough dust has settled for me to be able to pick myself up off the floor and tell it. I was reminded of it last Friday night at a dinner party where we played out the events with friends that were also there that day.
The stage was set
We’d been here in LA about six months so our social circle was growing. It was time to invite some of our mates over to the house. My son asked if he could invite a couple of other mates over. “Of course,” I answered in delight. “Let’s invite the parents too.”
So everyone came along. It was mid afternoon on Sunday–rare for here in LA so I must have got everyone on a good weekend. I made party pies and sausage rolls. We were all excited. That was actually the first slip up although I seemed to get away with it. There are a lot of Jewish folk here in LA with a good percentage of my friends Jewish and I forgot all about the fact I was making sausage rolls from pork sausage meat. Rooky mistake, plenty more food no worries.
Everything was going swimmingly
We were pouring wine, chatting and having a lovely Sunday afternoon. It actually–in one of those small world LA type stories–turned out that three of our guests at some point in their lives went to the same boarding school outside London. They weren’t in the same year but there was crossover for sure and we’re talking one party, three guests, one boarding school. In England. I mean boarding school isn’t even that common here let alone in England.
Conversation was flowing, we were getting to know new friends and life was good. Australian music playing in the background and everyone was having fun.
No, not The Slap. That’s another famous Australian BBQ that didn’t end well. It may not have been the actual slap but it sort of felt like it.
Our house in Beverly Hills was on a hill and the house was carved into the hill so if you imagine our backyard was a hill. It wasn’t nicely terraced or landscaped so it could be played on but from time to time there would be some hill play.
This wasn’t hill play. One of the boys apparently ran up the hill and hid in the bushes. Everyone (his parents and the boys) were looking for him and he wasn’t coming out. The kids knew it was up there so we could smell a rat–someone wasn’t happy. Oops.
Long story short there was an altercation with his little brother. I was so nervous one of the kids did something to upset him. Well it turns out that’s exactly what happened. Although the kids didn’t know they did anything. We suspect he didn’t like my son meeting new mates and including him. But that’s what we do back home–the more the merrier.
So the dad, in his fine Gucci shoes and Ralph Lauren Polo shirt tucked into his beautiful designer jeans (with matching Gucci belt) had to go up the hill and pull a great big extraction in front of a huge crowd of onlookers. We were worried for the kid, it wasn’t like it was normal behaviour. I mean it was not a good look for our party either. Welcome to 90210 you’ve just upset people. Oops.
The beginning of the end
Yeah, it was basically the last time we hung out with that family in any real way. I think there were casual Sunday drinks that didn’t last long. And, it could have just been me but I think the parents might have been doing their best to be really obnoxious so we wouldn’t want to hang out with them anyway.
The next I heard some mutual friends were catching up with them and the word was the mum said, “let’s just catch up the two families,” as they hadn’t done anything with the two of them for a while and they just needed to catch up.
So that was it. Six months in and one friendship gone.
One door closes another one opens
The funniest thing was that ending of a friendship–if you could call it that–opened up so many more doors for me. People whom I first met and thought I was nice were curious onlookers because they thought it was odd I was friends with this family. Apparently I missed a couple of warnings but I’m glad I did. I don’t (didn’t) mind finding out for myself.
It turns out that they find it hard to keep friends. I remember at the time being quite down in the dumps about it. It was a bit too early to be losing friends and was it me? Was I not cut out to live the 90210 life?
It turns out I was. I just needed to experience a little Real Housewives of Beverly Hills action before I could tell the tale.
(And in case you’re wondering those mutual friends aren’t friends with them either. Oops.)
Happy Australia Day guys and remember if you’re out and about pick up a pack of Bundaberg Ginger Beer. And if you see them a packet of Tim Tams!
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: If you want tips on how to celebrate Australia Day in LA my mate at Bright Lights of America wrote a great guide. Cheers.
PPS: Yes, Bundaberg sent me some samples of Ginger Beer so this post is sponsored by them. Having said that it is no word of a lie our fave ginger beer so thanks again to the good folk over there.
This year I was able to watch the Golden Globes as the past two years I’ve been working. Yay! I realised as I was watching from the comfort of my living room in my black hoodie that I was playing spot your mates at the Golden Globes ceremony.
Yes the 75th annual Golden Globes awards have come and gone for another year. While this Blog has done blow-by-blow accounts in recent years by the time this comes out you will have already dissected the ceremony with write ups from the professional teams of writers and photographers covering the event on the ground. (Read: gone are the days when I think writing about them will get my a guernsey to the event, sigh). But that’s not to say I’m not going to give my humble LA opinion!
I do love the Golden Globes. I do love a good Awards show and the Globes of course kick off Awards season.
Actors and activists
I spent a lot of time juggling social media during the awards shows. I hopped on Facebook Live during the Red Carpet–just love the various medium we have to choose from to gawk!
Some of the comments–in this day and age–are still so woeful. People just think they can say whatever they like just because celebrities are in the spotlight and seem to “ask for it”, for people to say whatever they want.
It’s really interesting that popular opinion is divided somewhere down the middle when it comes to actors being activists and whether or not they should have an opinion.
I’m all for actors speaking up, especially the #timesup cause and the #metoo movement. As a mother of a girl–and one that wants to get into the industry–how can I not?
I get that some people take it all a little bit too far. Others aren’t eloquent and others rant and rave (perhaps we could say present company included) so the message might be there but it’s lost in its delivery.
But the reality is if these actors aren’t going to speak up how else are we–the general populace–going to know about these issues and how then can we do anything about it?
Besides people can’t have it both ways. You either want celebrities to have their say on issues affecting our society or you don’t.
America cracks me up though. It’s no bloody wonder Donald Trump is President. If you recall I predicted he would be–not because of anything other than America’s fascination with celebrity.
So to almost fully contradict what I said about actors being great activists, why does an eloquent celebrity automatically get put up on a pedestal to become the next President? The cries here now are Oprah for President hashtagging like crazy and talking like stupid people as if it’s really A THING. Or worse, should be a thing.
Seriously, you should hear the carry on here and the media is running with it. It’s breaking news–“will she or won’t she; please let’s all hope she does.”
It’s great that anyone can be President. But… If there’s one thing this President should teach us it’s that being recognised doesn’t make us qualified to be President. (Yes I know there’s so many more reasons why this President shouldn’t be president but that’s not my point).
Correct, I’m not one of those people getting on the Oprah for President bandwagon.
And before you jump down my throat, I thought Oprah’s speech was inspiring and she provides a great role model for our girls. She’s come from humble beginnings (the stuff she said about her mum made me cry) but she achieved extraordinary success. She beat the odds, she did it.
But don’t you think we need to stop looking to celebrities to become “The President”? Come on guys, let’s help Politicians be better people, get in touch with the people and lead their country to be better. In order to effect change at the political level you need to have political experience; you need to know how stuff is done; gets done. It’s one of the reasons Trump is so arguably bad because he thinks he knows it all and doesn’t need to play politics. You need to understand the law and you need to understand economics.
But wait, there’s a role for Hollywood and a role for someone like Oprah in politics.
Influencers like Oprah can work hard to change society’s beliefs, old-fashioned views and really instill change. Maybe if she worked together with an inspiring President-to-be together they can deal with the law and popular culture at the same time. What a great combination that could would be.
Woosh-ka. Hell I’m so inspiring maybe we can get the #gwenforpresident2020 going.
Playing spot your mates
Changing gears back to the Golden Globes.
As I was watching I squealed: there’s my girlfriend from tennis. Immediately I texted her to say I spotted her and to say she looks very glam, green with envy. (She texted back from the ceremony to say thank you so I guess in my own little way I was there at one point in time–on a very cool table might I add!)
As another girlfriend and I were texting each other through the ceremony though I started laughing because we were playing “spot your mates”. Instead of watching who was front and centre with the cameras we were looking in the background for people we knew. Her ex-boyfriend and his husband were there and another client of a friend of mine was there too. Looking, looking.
You might recall my son was front and centre at the Emmy’s. I love TV and TV stars but the highlight for me was still playing spot the son!
I know, it looks like I’ve photoshopped him in doesn’t it? I haven’t!
It’s what living in LA is all about–smack bang in the middle of the Entertainment industry and it’s all good fun. Remembering this post about how normal people actually can be, it’s still true. And you may never actually understand unless you live here but I hope this Blog let’s you in on that insight every now and then.
Reese Witherspoon to be my BFF
Speaking of playing spot your mates … While everyone was ogling over Oprah, I was on team Reese. (No, that they were on opposing sides just that my girl crush was elsewhere).
How gorgeous is she? She pulls everyone together, let’s them do the talking, doesn’t get too serious but is so inspirational. And she does it all being fabulous and a great role model for her kids. Go her. And congrats to well-deserved Big Little Lies and can’t wait for Season 2 (complete with a new female director to boot).
Back to natural faces
If there’s one thing our hopefully changing society should do it’s go back to natural faces.
I don’t know about you but living here in LA you notice everyone’s really bad faces. These fillers and over botoxing is getting out of hand. Fresh from being in Australia over Christmas the first thing that hits you is the over-worked faces on women here. I swear the look is not to look young or natural but to look like you’re able to pay for fillers and “work”.
Let’s hashtag no more work. That goes for the blokes too. Look after yourselves, do what you need to do for a natural look but enough of the out of the control facial distortions.
I think there could be a lot of credibility coming back at you if you start there ladies and gents.
And with that it’s over and out for me this week.
xx It Started in LA xx
BTW Image source/credit: Getty / FREDERIC J. BROWN from PopSugar celebrity website
Happy New Year and welcome to 2018. Here’s to good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018.
I’ve got a (good) feeling about 2018. I think it’s going to be a good, good year. And if that line reminds you of a popular song you might well be right. I’m singing it as I type and it’s a clue to what’s coming up.
But first I’ve got to say I had the best break. We went home for Christmas this year–which we don’t usually do–and it was so good. It was especially good to head home to Melbourne and catch up with some old and dear friends and just hang out for a while. Thanks to our special friends for putting time aside in their busy holiday schedules to catch up: it meant the world to us.
It’s true us Aussies associate the end of year Christmas break with summer holidays: It’s summer in Australia, school is on break for around 6-8 weeks and the Christmas/New-Year period is a great time to unwind with many offices and workplaces closing down between Christmas and New Year.
And, in Australia as with many other parts of the world (just not America or China), shops are closed on Christmas Day and New Years’ Day (they should really be closed on Boxing Day too.) So it actually feels like a real holiday.
December (and the start of January) has been really mild for us here in LA, not like winter at all. It’s funny that people kept saying, “it doesn’t feel like the end of the year because it’s so hot” or “it doesn’t feel like Christmas with the weather being this warm”.
But for us, that’s exactly how it feels–normal.
Christmas in July
But imagine my shock yesterday at the post office when I was posting some sneakers for a friend’s son. I casually said I hope it’s not a Christmas present (referring to the urgency of the package).
The very friendly guy asked when Christmas was in Australia. I thought I was hearing things so replied quietly, “The same, in December.” It’s also not unusual for people not to celebrate Christmas in LA so I thought maybe he was one of those people.
He was shocked.
“When is it? December you say? Isn’t it May or June … July?”
“No, it’s the same: December 25.”
“Oh wow, but it’s summer there isn’t it? How do you celebrate Christmas when it’s summer? I just expected it to be in the middle of the year.”
He had a very, very hard time coming to terms with–much less picturing–Christmas being in the middle of summer.
Fascinated he continued, “What does Santa wear?”
He was most intrigued! So of course I had to tell him about one of our favourite Hi-5 songs, Santa Wear Your Shorts. That seemed to appease him. Somewhat!
Carols by Candlelight
I hope you clicked on that link and enjoyed a sing-a-long like I did.
Back in Australia Christmas Eve tradition has it that you watch Carols by Candlelight while you drink eggnog (or wine) and wrap presents preparing for Santa’s arrival. The kids go to bed once Hi-5 has come on.
(For those non Australians Hi-5 was/is a group of kids brought together not dissimilar to the Wiggles. They had a show on TV which we were utterly addicted to. It had puppets, singing and a bit of good old educational value for the pre-school kids. They also put on sold-out concerts which we’d go to–and loved!).
Until last Christmas Eve I forgot all about that. One of the most fun days/nights I had over Christmas was singing Christmas carols with my sister-in-law and reminiscing with kids about Hi-5 like it was yesterday. Seriously, where has the time gone?
Hot or cold?
But the thing about Christmas in Melbourne (as opposed to Sydney) is that you never know if it’s going to actually be hot or cold. You can get cold days in December. And there’s always a chance it might rain.
That always makes it hard to decide if you’ll set the table inside or outside. That’s called a first-world Australian Christmas problem.
So, you see, just because it’s summer, doesn’t necessarily mean Christmas Day will be a hot one. You hope it will be so you can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. And that’s Christmas to us.
Now it’s the new year and we’re back home. This is the third year we’ve had a New Year’s Eve party at home and it’s becoming quite the tradition. I grew up with my parents always throwing a party so it’s a tradition that’s dear to me.
This year, while we were down a couple of regulars, it was our biggest yet. Being an expat in LA isn’t the easiest thing. But having fun, close friends around me made me realise how lucky I am to have them.
I’m hoping 2018 will be a good, good year.
New Year’s Day
That’s the perfect segue to New Year’s Day. A few years ago we were invited to a friend’s house. It was very spur of the moment as her mum decided to cook some Black-Eyed Peas (we’re not talking the Band) and have an impromptu afternoon/evening with friends.
You may recall if you’ve been following on for a while that was the time we almost went head-to-head with Beyonce & Jay-Z. Still one of my personal highlights as we’d flown in from Miami that morning and it was a sign we were back in LA. Maybe also the fact Mr H wouldn’t move and good old Jay-Z reversed down the narrow road for us to get passed him. The dead giveaway was when I got my phone out to google Jay Z and Beyonce immediately bowed her head and covered her face!
What I didn’t realise though, that I do now, is that the Southerners have a tradition on New Year’s Day. A tradition and a superstition. To start the year out they eat a meal of Black-eyed peas, collard greens and Ham. All good except up until a few years ago I didn’t really realise black-eyed peas were a thing other than a band/group.
And, I wondered what on earth collared greens were. Could it be a generic name for green-leaf vegetables. Is there some significance to the “collar?” Was there something I was missing?
Apparently there was. There is no collar on those greens but it is a generic name of sorts. Collared greens are in fact collard greens. Learn something new every day!
Good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018
This year we were lucky enough to be invited to our in-laws place (my son’s girlfriend’s family) to ring in the new year with the good luck-/health-/fortune-bringing meal. We had Bloody Mary’s, a beautiful meal and played some games.
(On a side note we played lifesize Jenga Australians versus Americans and for the third time–or is it fourth–the Australians won. Pressure’s on next time for sure!
Here’s a sneak peak at the deliberation of which Jenga block to remove to avoid the spill!
Seriously, in LA that’s a question: When will it begin to look a lot like Christmas. Truth be told it doesn’t. Sure you’ll get Rodeo Drive decked out in all its 90210 glory and The Grove will be the same, even a few other Malls. But, the truth is, LA is not the American city to visit to recreate Christmas from the movies. I know, isn’t it ironic?
Instead, Christmas is some neighbourhoods with some lights out (or on as the case may be), a few “festive few” going all out. But on the whole you can spend most of December wondering where on earth the “holiday spirit” has gone.
And we can’t blame the fact that Christmas is only “Christmas” for half of LA. I mean, it’s the same in New York and you can’t get more “Christmas” than there right?
And, let’s face it, the greater majority of my Jewish friends “celebrate” Christmas so it’s not that either.
So what is it about LA that Christmas seems like just another day?
It might well be that life continues as normal. It’s not all shut up like it is in Europe or Australia. I could be forgiven for thinking I still live in China.
New Year’s Eve
And New Year’s Eve here is a little flat too. It’s definitely not the pomp and ceremony and fireworks extravaganza that it is in Australia. Let’s face it, for the big hoo-ha that is New York in Times Square for New Year you’re only going to see a ball drop. A ball drop peoples.
Ubering for “holiday” parties
There is one constant and that’s the “holiday party”. Being LA this year’s parties were apparently very toned down; fortunately I went to a few fun ones!
I’ve had two uber drivers with huge claims to fame. My latest one picked my accent straight away:
“Yes I am, well done.” (They don’t often pick it right!)
“I went to Australia in 1983, had a great time. I was on tour with my boyfriend at the time.”
“Ok, fun,” I said. “I hope you managed to see the sights.”
“Yeah my boyfriend loved Australia so he always makes sure we got downtime.”
“Oh nice, he’d been before?”
“Oh yeah, he’s a really famous rockstar … David Bowie?”
“Oh right, OK.”
“Yeah, we toured Japan first then went to Australia, it was a wild time.”
OK stop. You’re driving an Uber and you went on tour with David Bowie. That’s serious stuff. I hope she’s all there as she’s responsible for getting me safely from A to B.
I mean all the dates and info seemed to make sense. Could it be?
Then she starts giving me advice on acting and building up an IMDB profile. OK …
Sadly our trip came to an end. Five stars to you Diane. What an entertaining trip. Say hi to David for me.
Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to you all. I’m sure you won’t hear from me til the new year so take care out there. And I hope you get an uber driver with some fun stories to tell.
There are huge differences between eating out in America compared to Australia. And it will pay you, both as an Australian in the US and as an American in Australia, to learn what those differences are in order to enjoy a fun night out. Otherwise you might just do your head in.
Five differences in dining out in America compared to Australia
1. Time limit
It’s time for a catch up with friends so you pick a date and a venue (hopefully that hip new restaurant that’s all the buzz) and you head out. That’s about where the similarities between eating out in Australia compared to America ends.
In America eating out is on a time limit. The time restraints are both cultural and the way restaurants work here.
In Australia the time limit is how long you want to hang out with your mates enjoying the food, wine & company.
Here’s where the Americans have got spot on. Greet the guests, serve water, take drink orders then come back for food orders. There’s nothing worse than being without a drink. Nothing.
Sometimes in Australia this little detail can often be overlooked. Once when we were home we were seated at a restaurant for lunch and it took ages to get menus, drinks or even waters. We were all a bit antsy. This is the exception though. Usually drink orders will be taken and served and the waiter will give you time to catch up before bothering you again. I prefer it this way–unless I’m hungry of course! But I have to have a drink in my hand–the “event” doesn’t start until you have a drink in your hand.
This approach makes a huge difference to the happiness of those dining. When Americans don’t get served straight away–even if it’s just a water serving–they start to get antsy. They see it as bad service because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to expect. And rightly so.
Often us Aussies feel a bit rushed when orders are taken too quickly–we like to settle in and take our time. Except of course for drinks–can’t express the importance of drinks!
And speaking of service. The thing that really gets Australian’s goats is the fact that servers or bus people here take your plates away when your mate hasn’t finished eating. That’s right, if one person has finished their plate is gone leaving you to continue eating. We find that so rude (um, manners please) but I’m sure my fellow Americans don’t even notice it.
To an Australian there’s nothing worse than ordering your meal and the meal coming out five or so minutes later. What the …? We’re just settling in. Conversation is now moving from “Hi how are you?” to “What are you having?” to “It’s time to catch up on the goss”. No, take that meal back and wait until I’ve had a chance to shift conversation gears.
Conversely, Americans are generally happy with the pace.
4. The Bill & Tipping
You’re done with the main meal, you push your plate aside, order another bottle of wine and it’s really time to shift conversation to another gear. There’s no more eating to worry about, you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and you’re relaxed.
In America the waiter comes up to your table and asks if there’s anything else you need. “No thank you,” you reply, lucky to make eye contact you’re deeply engrossed in conversation. Within minutes the bill comes. Wait, what?
In Australia it’s the same scenario except the bit about the bill. Getting the bill is a process: you have to ask for it.
When the bill doesn’t come American start to get antsy again. They’ve been conditioned that the bill comes to the table with a “No rush” dropped by the waiter (yeah right bullshit!) And that’s fine. But the exact same scenario and you’ve pissed the Aussies off.
And, tipping. You might have caught the guest post from a fellow Aussie Blogger based in San Fran on what to tip here when (& how much). In Australia (for you Americans planning holidays–or living there) we’re talking around 10% of the bill, at a cafe it might only be a case of rounding the bill up. Our minimum wage isn’t shit like yours so you don’t need to actually pay their salary.
5. Lingering–especially for lunch
Therein lies the very important difference number five: the linger. This is possibly the most important step in Aussies eating out 101. You’re too full for dessert at the moment but that’s not to say you won’t have room in 10 minutes. Maybe more. Depends on the company and how the wine is going down. The most important thing is the end of the meal is not the cue to go home like it is for Americans.
No, in America, even if the bill doesn’t come straight away service just … well … stops. The waiter is nowhere to be seen and you’re not asked if you want or need anything more.
And if it’s lunch–especially a nice long Sunday lunch–then we’re talking another hour at least. Australians ideal scenario; the Americans not so much–especially in LA!
I miss those long lunches so much!
Like everything in life the lines are blurring. In many Australian restaurants it’s getting harder to spend three or more hours at a table for dinner. Australian restaurant owners are trying to get multiple sittings from their nights too. In many cases restaurants are only offering two sittings: 6:00 and 8:30pm. Others stagger them just the same as they do here in LA. I get it, restaurants need to make money–it’s a hard business with high overheads. But I hope our culture stays the same as I love that laid back, casual dining feel, it’s good for the soul.
But you’ll still have to ask for the bill, and service continues and you still get some time to order another bottle of wine. Or a nightcap.
What’s dining out like in your part of the world? Share your comments either on Facebook or below.
xx It Started in LA xx
Edited 7/12/17 to add feedback from other Australians in LA/USA
It’s not uncommon for Americans to have no idea what I’m talking about. We have lots of slang words and I often like to use them just for laughs. But every now and again there are some American words I just don’t understand.
And, as much as Americans love our accent we say words differently so it sometimes takes a bit for them to understand us.
(Eg. Alternate. We say al-ter-nate, Americans say alter-nate).
Ever noticed that most non-English speaking people talk with an American accent?
I think that’s why their accents aren’t foreign to us–we’re so used to hearing them. Whether it be on TV, the movies, a Swedish person, even Canadians (sorry, couldn’t resist. Just like you can’t tell the difference between an Australian accent and a New Zealand one, I can’t tell the difference between yours).
It usually also means we know all the different words they use.
Yes, even “fanny”. Fanny might not make Americans laugh but it always makes us Australians (and Brits etc) laugh out loud–rolling on the floor laughing out loud.
To let you in on the secret, in Australia a fanny is your vagina. So imagine how funny it is for us when we translate your politically correct sentence, “I have a sore fanny” or “We need to take our fanny packs with us”: what pres tell is a vagina pack, dare we ask what we need it for and where do we get it?
For the 1% of Australians who might not know, and if you haven’t already worked it out, fanny to Americans is a bum.
And even rooter. There are ads for it, vans driving around with it–there are rooters everywhere. Again, our conservative American friends have a word they happily throw around that in our part of the world is a “rude word”. If not a rude word most definitely a socially uncomfortable word for them (we don’t have a problem with it AT all).
To root is the act of having sex. As in, “hey love, wanna root?” Perhaps some of these Hollywood men you’ve been hearing about in the news might have used that line had they known about the act of rooting.
The rooter in America is the generic term for a drain cleaning service. So we have business names/websites like:
Then you have every Charles-, Dick- & Harry-the-Rooter (or should I say Chuck, Archer & Parker). All these American men publicising that they’ll come to root for you.
Speaking of rooting for you. I also know that one. “Rooting for” is the American term for supporting your team. In a sentence, “I root for the Dodgers”. If I said I root for the Dodgers at home I’d be classed as a first class slut–some form of groupie happy to put myself out for the entire Dodgers team.
Yes, yes, our humour is very much of the gutter variety. And we’re fine with that.
American words I just don’t understand
But there are some words that I don’t know–or don’t know the slang for might be more accurate.
At tennis my friend was coming clean that she lets her kids have their passes every so often. We had this entire conversation with her telling me it’s bad (no it’s not), asking what I think (yeah, it’s fine) and saying they don’t do it all the time (ok, fine).
I’m looking at her thinking did I miss what the pass was for? Her kids are young, where do they need passes for? I gave a little chuckle. It’s our turn to be in on the court. Yay, we won, off to the other side.
Then, when we got to the other side, she called me out on it. Oops! She’s so used to not understanding what I say that she recognised that blank look on my face and nervous giggle.
The “pass” was a pac (soft c–said with that American accent so the a sound is not the “ah” sound but an “a” sound that’s quick. And so “pass” is actually short for pacifier. As in dummy.
Oh! Yes, I know you guys say Pacifier. I just didn’t recognise “pac” I thought you were saying pass!
So a Pacifier is a Dummy in Australia. One of our friends from Shanghai’s favourite phrase of ours is “spit the dummy” which means “chuck a hissy fit” or have a little tanty (tantrum). And no, I have no idea why we call it a dummy.
While I’m at it I’ll give the Americans another favourite word of ours: bogan.
A bogan can be loosely translated as “trailer trash”. Traditionally they had an outfit which consisted of way-too-tight jeans, a flannelette shirt (flanno) and ugg boots. Yes, ugg boots. Only bogans actually wore ugg boots out in public, the rest of us only wore them at home.
Here is a bogan:
A family full of them actually
But then things started blurring–there were cool incredibly tight jeans, flannos were deemed respectable (depending on who wore them or how they wore them of course) and ugg boots became a thing.
And bogans also became proud of being bogans. And so the term “cashed-up bogan” was born. This is when a bogan did good and all of a sudden had loads of money. They would carry on being bogans but now they had lots of money to throw around. The long-standing belief then was, well, money can’t buy you class.
Americans have bogans too. Our family calls them yogans (Yankee bogans).
I think Americans know this one but it’s one of my favourites. We wear thongs on our feet as well. As in flip flops.
In America (& probably every other place in the world) thongs are undies. And I know this. But I do love calling out to the kids in public, “Don’t forget your thongs” or “Are you wearing your thongs”.
It’s important to keep a sense of humour.
So technically that was one word I don’t understand. There are more I’m sure. But that was funny and then I could share with my American audience some of the words we hold dear to our heart–and why some of your words make us laugh.
Halloween in LA
On another note I first wrote about Halloween in LA a few years ago. I made the observation that we don’t really celebrate Halloween in Australia. But the fact is we do. Well many people do anyway. It depends what neighbourhood you live in.
We get the impression we don’t celebrate it in Australia because it’s not as widespread but when you think about it not every house is dressed up and not everyone goes trick or treating here either.
It’s just more of an event here: they dress up at work, even people going about their normal business dress up.
In Australia though, we tend to dress up as “spooky” things–blood, guts and gore. Here in the US Halloween is a giant dress up day–you can be whatever you like, it doesn’t have to be scary. I hadn’t changed since tennis that morning so I pronounced that I was dressed as a tennis player. Tick. All fine.
Our neighbourhood decided they’d start trick or treating locally this year. It’s a big step to be able to trick or treat in your own neighbourhood rather than going to someone else’s (which is the thing to do). We’d never think to head to someone else’s ‘hood and knock on their doors for lollies (candy).
But when houses (or streets) go all out, they go all out. Did you catch my Instagram post where one house had a crashed 747 in their front yard? Very cool.
And now it’s November 1 it’s time to fast forward to Thanksgiving–the longest and only four-day long weekend in the American holiday calendar. And because of that I have to leave you now to research what we’ll do for the four-day weekend–we all need a break.
Enjoy the rest of the week as we head into the weekend. Catch you soon!
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for me. As many of you know my son is in his senior year at school. But what does this opening sentence have to do with clinging to our motherland: US Gov and guns?
Back to School Night
Well last week we had “Back to School” night. It’s where you go to each class the kids have in their schedule and see the teachers and get a breakdown of the class and what they’ll be studying for the year.
Master H is taking AP (Advanced Placement) US Government. I thought nothing of it until one of the parents asks whether they’ll be discussing other systems of government. The answer was a categoric no. Much like the HSC in Australia the APs are taught to a curriculum guideline, the topics of which can be found in a test. That test is taken by everyone in the country taking that subject. And, a quick look at other systems isn’t covered by the syllabus–or on the test.
For those newer readers, we’re at a local private school in LA not an international one. Although, LA being LA, there are a number of expats or people who have moved to the US for one reason or another.
I got a bit peeved by the teacher’s response. I mean he chose the subject (there were no other real choices), US Gov is US Gov right?
When I studied Legal Studies at school it was essentially studying the Australian legal system. We covered other systems in the world but we focussed on ours. It makes plenty of sense to understand what other countries do in order to better understand ours.
And while the answer was a categoric no she did suggest that they would weave into their discussion other systems because of the expat nature of the group. (The small class had a Canadian family, British/German, Aussies (us) and Italian. So when I eventually calmed down about how she categorically answered the question, it isn’t going to be all bad.
Expat Facebook group
Before I had a chance to calm down I posted a comment on an Expat Facebook group I belong to. I wrote:
“Here’s my gripe: couldn’t she just say there’s no time in the curriculum to discuss the other systems it’s purely a US Govt subject? That would have sufficed.
“And am I wrong to be so sad that my son will know so much more about the US system of Government and the ins and outs of the Electoral College than the Westminster system?”
I was expecting some empathy from the Aussies amongst us and some lamenting from others about the downside of Expat life where the kids often know more about the country in which they live than their homeland–their motherland.
Instead, after the Australians supported me, I was barraged with comments accusing me of trying to change the AP courses and advising me that the AP system is very strict and must be adhered to. And this:
“With about 200 countries in the world, how could they effectively compare other systems of government while simultaneously going in-depth about the US?”
But I wasn’t asking for that … Just a bit of discussion if it fits, that’s all. (And remember I didn’t ask the question, one of my American compatriots–in the parental sense–asked).
With all that behind me I went along to the Potluck night we threw for the Senior parents. We were chatting away about stuff as you do. We were talking about what subjects our kids were doing and one of the dads said, “Are you sad that [he’s] doing US Gov and will know more about our messed up system than not your own?”
Oh my God. Hallelujah. Thank you. Yes!
Why wasn’t one of my fellow expats able to just say/ask/empathise like this all-American dad formerly of New York and more recently living in LA?
Did someone say guns?
Well one guy did. Made a huge statement didn’t he? We are literally walking around in disbelief. Vegas is so close to LA, it’s in our backyard. There’s someone you know in Vegas every week. In fact there were people I knew in Vegas at the time and thankfully they were fine and away from the trouble.
But there’s nothing more obvious than an Australian in a gun debate. Especially in America. I blogged about it early on when I was here for my first mass shooting. (Yep, like it’s an earthquake or hurricane, celebrity divorce or star meltdown)*.
My daughter was talking about it in school the day we woke to the news of the Vegas tragedy. One of her friends said she believed in the right to protect herself (I’m guessing she means her family not actually 15 year-old her). Miss H looked at her startled; it wasn’t something she was expecting to hear in LA amongst her friends.
Miss H said, “If there were proper gun laws then they wouldn’t have a gun in the first place would they?”
I’m happy to say I give my kids an Australian perspective when it really matters.
Australians actually have it all wrong
But actually us Australians have it all wrong. We do. If there’s one single thing we are polar opposites with America on it’s our attitude to guns. And never the two shall meet. Basically, we’re like guns suck, they kill people. And Americans (not all thank-you but the ones giving you a bad rap) are like guns are so good, I get to protect myself and it’s my right to have one. So there.
Every time there’s a mass shooting in America us Australians come out like Eddie Murphy in his classic standup routine “I got an ice-cream“.
Yeah, we go
“We don’t have guns,
“You got a problem,
“We can’t afford them,
“Cause they can’t sell them,
“You have to have a licence
“And it’s really hard.”
And Americans go, “Oh My God I’m so sorry, how do you cope?”
Well it’s our right to bear arms it’s in the second amendment so there. OR
You know you’ve had other mass shootings don’t you? Yeah, but you never talk about them do you?
Then we get all funny (because we like to win too). We have to concede defeat. One or two situations have tragically happened (the Lindt Cafe hostage situation freaked me out).
(BTW there were three deaths including the hostage taker and 18 injured).
Yeah, all of a sudden because we let a couple of incidents slip through to the keeper in the last 21 years, that means our rules suck. So basically it didn’t work.
“Take that Australia. We win.”
Yep. Let’s face it, when it comes to the number of psychotic mass shootings in the last (let’s just call it 10 years) you win America.
So Australia got it wrong after all.
Nightly Talk Shows
But not all Americans believe semi-automatic and automatic guns should be out there for anyone to buy. And use. And kill people.
I recorded every late night show to see how the comedians handled the latest tragedy. I follow them all on Twitter and I’ve tweeted and retweeted anything vaguely intelligent on the subject.
But, the problem with the way the situation here is that these guys are preaching to the converted. We share their posts on Facebook, we tweet them and post photos on our Instagram like the Pray Policy Change for America. They unite with the Australians, we look at each other and go “yeah, exactly”, we puff our chests out and wear a grin from ear to ear.
The same thing happened before Trump got elected. They think common sense should prevail.
But change won’t happen unless we stop preaching to the converted. And not by preaching to the non-converts either. I don’t know how to talk to these people but somehow there’s a way. And once we work out that way, then we’ll start to see a difference.
But to start there are two ways. First is through education: get into the classrooms. It’s going to be a generational change that’s needed because it will never be a mindset change. Second, stop the bloody NRA from being allowed to donate money to bribe the politicians. Actually, just disband them. If politicians aren’t being paid to keep guns legal I will guarantee you their perspective will change. And if it doesn’t, see step one.
And, because I’m one of those “converteds” here is a story including a video with some powerful statements from said Late Night hosts. Powerful statements that will fall on deaf ears yet again.
Curve ball … empathy. As I was writing the first part of this post I started thinking.
Immigration is such a huge topic and it’s so deeply dividing (what topic isn’t these days?) An expat is just a temporary immigrant really.
When you leave your family and friends behind, move to a new country to start a “better life” (for whatever reason) it’s pretty bloody hard to start afresh. You have to make new friends, experience different ways of doing things and assimilate into your new world. Take a US Gov class instead of Australian Legal Studies.
So what if you move to a country that’s nothing like your motherland? How much harder must it be then? We experienced it in China as expats but not as immigrants.
Just a thought if you’re down on people for clinging to their motherland. Cut them some slack. They want to be in your country (OK, most of them–don’t get nitpicky on me) and they want to assimilate. But sometimes, when you move away, the bond is stronger and the memories grow fonder and fonder.
What sort of English is that I hear you shouting at me. How to do an “ask” for a school formal? What does that even mean?
Well, if you’re the parent of a teenager living the dream in 90210 you may well know what I mean. If you’re the parent of a teenager living in America you may also know what I mean. If you’re a teenager who’s Googled “How to ask a girl to my Formal?” I suggest you refer your parents to this page and keep searching.
Trying to live our normal LA lives has been made easier this past week by talk of the Junior Dance at the kids’ school.
There have been movies made about them, TV Shows have featured them and all in all anyone who has vaguely been exposed to “popular culture” (read: America) knows about School Dances in America.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been out of Australia for more than three years now. This means I’m starting to get a little out of touch with how things are done in Australia—especially as my kids left at Middle School age! (I know, I know, how does that even happen?)
Types of Dances in the year
Typically here in the US (OK, LA) there are two major dances—Homecoming and Prom. Homecoming is the start of the season and has something to do with the football team. Given our school doesn’t have a football team (and its associated American ra-ra) our school doesn’t have this Dance. Personally I think they should at least do a Homecoming of sorts in honor of our other sports teams (otherwise known as athletics teams) but then again our school isn’t a huge sport school. Sigh.
So, after Homecoming there’s usually a Winter Formal and/or this Dance, called the Junior Dance because it’s organized by the Junior Class. Then there’s usually one more towards the end of the year—Spring Dance—and of course, Prom. Prom is STRICTLY for the Seniors and their dates.
Most of the time the Americans are politically correct and unless you have a boyfriend or girlfriend—or I suppose someone you “like” you go solo. Takes all the fun out of things but the pressure too no doubt.
This upcoming dance is an “ask dance”. Clearly that means you’re encouraged to ask someone to go with you. Of course you don’t have to ask or be asked but where’s the fun in that?
You know there’s a lot of talk about this generation and how our generation have ruined them by having to win all the time and not teaching them what failure and disappointment is all about?
Well … they have taken it to a whole new level when it comes to the “Ask”.
The “Ask” has been taken to a whole new level when it’s Prom time. Does the term “Promposal” mean anything to you? No. My marriage proposal had nothing on these Promposals.
Step 1: The Ask ritual
There is a system, a ritual if you like, about how exactly you “ask” your prospective partner.
It starts with the ‘asker’ checking with the ‘askee’s’ friends to see if (let’s say he just to simplify this) he asks said ‘askee’ whether or not (let’s say she to simplify this once again) she would say yes. Preferably via text. Or Snapchat. Worse-case scenario: in person.
This is easy if the answer is yes.
If it’s yes then he goes ahead and plans to ask her—safely proceed to step two.
Of course it’s a lot more complicated when the answer is no. Or I’m waiting for a better offer. Actually, the answer wouldn’t be no.
What would ensue next is a lot of behind-the-scenes drama that would put any caucus vote (or Attorney-General nomination vote) to shame. No might be: “maybe but I thought prospective-asker-2 might invite her” OR getting one of his friends to let him down gently that the answer “wouldn’t be yes”.
Yes, in my day part of this were true but it was sink or swim—you didn’t know if they were going to say yes or no. You workshopped it ad-infinitum then went for it.
There was a case this week when a boy didn’t follow the ask ritual: shock horror. Well, the outcome might have been a bit embarrassing because even though the girl said yes (couldn’t hurt his feelings). But, it turns out she was being asked by another boy (who had already qualified his ask via the asking ritual). Boy number two had to tell boy number one that actually he was planning to ask her (just hadn’t got around to it yet) so sorry he couldn’t take the girl that had said yes to him hours earlier. But, apparently, it wasn’t in a “you stole my girl I’m going to punch you” way it was just matter of fact, “sorry mate she is already going to say yes to me”.
So, you see there’s a place for this ask ritual after all. (Although seriously? This boy waited to ask until two days before the Formal, next time maybe he won’t wait so long—what’s with that?)
Step 2: The actual Ask aka Making the ask
Once we’re clear on whether or not the ‘askee’ will say yes the ‘asker’ goes ahead with plans to “make the ask”. So, teenager who’s still reading this is the section relevant to you: how to do an ask for a school formal.
This can be as high-key or as low-key as the asker wants. (Translation: high key would be elaborate & low key would be a relative simple “low-key” affair).
I’m not sure if the level of ask has anything to do with how much the asker likes the askee—and not sure my kids would cough up that sort of personal information either.
In many cases it’s pretty straight forward. But, apparently Freshman boys still have a bit of growing up to do and found it slightly beyond some of them to work out “how” to ask their pre-vetted would-be dates. Yes, for some boys, apparently, they felt the need to workshop not just amongst themselves but with the girls they planned to ask what they thought of their ask idea. Seriously boys, this is why we need to communicate with our mothers. They know a bit about these things.
Thankfully they’ll soon outgrow this. And, with one day to go before the Formal, I think all the asks are now out of the way and they can move on with the next step—planning how they’ll get there.
Both my kids were “sorted” early. My Junior-year (Year 11) son made a pact with a friend of his that they would go together—so long as he “asked” her with a proper ask.
My daughter got word that one of the Freshman (Year 9) boys was going to ask her and she swiftly gave the nod that yes she’d say yes if asked. Not missing a beat, she was asked the very next day. It was great because it caught her by surprise and it was a good “ask” as far as asks go.
Actually both of their asks were very cute. My son dressed up as a Shark (did you see that episode of The Bachelor where the would-be date dressed up in a Shark outfit saying she loved Dolphins?) With his red rose, and a poster made by one of his friends saying, “Dolphinitely come to Formal with me” he was done. He did this at lunchtime with lots of people around so it had maximum impact, maximum effect, she wasn’t expecting it so all good. (No pic for fear of the wrath of the son).
My daughter was asked a day earlier. In a sign of utter cuteness, he had an Australian flag where the stars were a question mark and Formal was written on it. Clever, pander to her love of Australia and, asking at the start of the day with all their friends around, caught her completely off guard. Big tick.
Ideas on your ask for formal
Perhaps one of the cutest things apart from my two (of course) was a senior boy who asked his girlfriend with the help of a few mates. Given the rain in LA not only was it creative but it was also very musical theatre of them. His mates, armed with black umbrellas with the letters F-O-R-M-A-L-? on them said it all.
Ask ideas for your formal
Don’t you wish that was you?
Step 3: Getting ready and how are we getting there
Now we need to move on to “will we get ready together?” and “where” and “how are we getting there?”. Most girls like to get ready together and so, it seems, do the boys.
Really, apart from the getting ready together bit this is not much different from my Formal or Ball when i was at school.
Step 4: The actual reason this all happened in the first place
The actual dance bit. The whole reason behind the whole ask bit in the first bit. The whole reason for being on this Saturday night. It can get a little overshadowed by its surrounding steps but you want to hope it’s a fun time. That is the whole reason after all.
Step 5: After party—do we go or don’t we as Freshmen?
The unwritten rule here is that Freshmen (year 9 and the first year of high school) don’t go to the after-party. It’s just not cool. But that’s not to say that the after-party organizers can’t profit from the Freshmen’s desire to go. Ticket prices are done as follows:
But this is 90210 so money isn’t really a deterrent. No, It’s the message that if you’re not cool enough to pick up on it your High School career isn’t off to a great start.
But really … 14 and 15 year-olds at a party with 17 7 18 year-olds—with all the “trimmings” that goes along with that really isn’t cool for parents to let them go anyway.
Apart from the post-Formal gossip that’s it. Monday comes around—Tuesday if there’s lots of gossip—and the drudgery of school returns. Then we’ll have to wait til the next time before there’s this much chatter around the dinner table.
One final word
When I went to my school Formal, or a Dance at a boys’ school it was perhaps a more elaborate affair reserved for Year 11 & 12. It consisted of a sit-down dinner followed by dancing. This was enough for us to think it was the most fun ever. (OK, that and sneaking alcohol onto the Premises). These days the kids need “something more”. Dancing alone is not enough. A photo booth is no longer enough. Now they look to also be entertained. So I’m with them, our generation has ruined this generation with all those lavish birthday parties we threw them. When dancing all night long with your mates to great music is no longer good enough what hope in hell do these kids have?
How is it where you are? Has Asking a date to go with you to a Dance (even if it’s just as friends) gone to a new level where you are? Has Promposal fever hit other parts of the globe?
It’s 2017 in LA but something’s not quite right. It’s been a while since I’ve written. And I have to confess to you straight up that I’ve been a little obsessed.
Yes, I’ve been a little obsessed, but not with the things I should be obsessing about in LA. For starters it’s award season: my favourite time of the year. Who’s wearing what, what Celebrities are in town and just who you might bump into going about your normal everyday business. It’s great, too, driving around as huge Billboards as far as the eye can see are advertising TV Shows and the latest movies “For Your Consideration”. There are “screeners” sent to everyone in SAGs or the Academy or the various other memberships around town; and the mad rush to see all the movies in time for the major award shows. Yes, this is the time LA is alive and thriving on its Entertainment roots doing what it does its superficial best. And I love it. Unashamedly so.
But something’s not quite right.
Friends in town
To top it off we had friends from Australia in town last weekend and you always know it’s going to be a beauty when you do. What’s not to love? You’ve got like-minded people ready to embrace your town. We had an Awards night after-party to go to and a ticket to the highly coveted “G’day USA” (formerly known as G’day LA) Gala. Sweet: Life is Good. This is why “It Started in LA”.
Yet something’s not quite right; there’s something hanging over us. Something worth obsessing about.
Then there’s the weather. You must know LA is blessed with shoot-perfect weather (that’s shooting entertainment style not America’s blazing guns style). Yeah, a typical LA winter starts at around 13C to 16C with the sun beating down then peaks somewhere between 18C and 23C before it cools down again at the end of the day. This is just in time to come home, put the fire on and open a bottle of red wine. It’s heaven. You even manage 25C to 28C days—on the weekends if you’re lucky enough—and just might be able to crank the spa on.
But this winter has been freakishly cold, starting out at 1C last week and only peaking at about 10C—if you’re lucky. Despite the sun being out the wind was bitterly—New York—cold.
That rain though
And wet. LA loves to talk about the rain. And, let me tell you, there’s been some rain. Not only has it been constant but it was heavy. It was Sydney heavy. We were all in a state of shock. Of course we all know we need the rain so no one was game to whinge and bitch and moan about it but in the end, at our LA selfish best, we were saying, “enough already!”. LA doesn’t do rain.
And, with the rain has come the mudslides. It’s been dry here for many years and our dry, baron land got a bit of a shock. With many of our communities built around the canyons—it couldn’t cope with all the rain sending muddy wet dirt skidding down the hills taking with it walls, fences and in some cases actual houses.
So you see there’s been quite a lot to talk about. Quite a lot to distract “us” Los Angelinos. Enough happening around town to ensure we are firmly locked away in our own bubble. Relishing our bubble crying out how lucky we are to do what we do living where we do. What a time to be alive.
But something’s not quite right.
How did you get here? Which way did you come?
And of course with the weather comes the traditional LA talk of how bad the traffic is and how LA doesn’t know how to drive in the rain (it’s true: it’s fact). With one of the busiest links between the flats & the Valley, Laurel Canyon, blocked because of one of these landslides that’s a whole lot of “which route did you take?” talk to start every conversation. LA Perfection right there.
Not to be outdone, it’s SuperBowl time. We’ve got Lady Gaga doing the half-time entertainment and we’re gearing up for the ads—not only at half-time but during the whole telecast. Mr H’s company is responsible for the special effects of at least three-quarters of the ads so not only are we excited about the ads themselves but thrilled that we’re a part of it.
And in a SuperBowl trifecta each year we go to a friend’s Superbowl party which is always so much fun I often miss the ads. (Don’t actually ask me who’s playing, or who has played; but I can tell you who’s been the half-time entertainment. Yes, there’s a lot to look forward to.
In LA it’s always a great start to the year. A lot to obsess about.
But something’s not quite right…
So what’s going on that with the stars aligned (pardon the pun) and all of our ducks lined up that’s interfering with what should only be a bloody good time?
You might already have guessed. It’s actually taken over the world and because it’s so early on it’s hard to know how long this will last. Facebook & Twitter are filled with opinion posts, and if people aren’t sharing news stories or rants they’re ranting about how they’re done with (or about to abandon) Facebook because of the number of political posts. And let me tell you some of them are so bloody good it’s really hard NOT to share them.
Yep, there’s that word. There’s your clue: Political.
That my friends is my obsession. This anti-news, anti binge-CNN-watching, Celeb-loving, LA-loving, superficial-loving Blogger can’t get enough of the news. My friends, I can’t escape to my LA bubble because everyone keeps asking me what life is like with our new President. And the world is reminding me everywhere how our new Pres is affecting me. My. Everyday. Life.
If you’re a regular you’ll know one of my last posts was a very upbeat post about staying in the US under Trump leadership. It’s true that once I got over the hangover and utter shock of Trump being our President elect (and subsequently our actual President) I thought that campaign rhetoric might give way to the confines of the job. You know? There was a lot of talk in my three years here about how little power the President of the United States actually has. So slowly as she goes the Wall wouldn’t be built, our President would have to defend his first mass shooting and his popularity would be largely diminished it’s just a four-year countdown until America realises its mistakes and life goes on as usual.
Reality TV binge fest
But this is Hollywood and day after day we’re in the middle of a Reality TV binge fest of the real kind. If we miss an episode—or a day—we miss a big piece of news; a reshuffle, a new executive order, a sacking. Alternative facts.
I really don’t want to get all political here—it’s bad enough that my time is consumed with soaking up all the various news stories, people’s shared Facebook news posts, Tweets (not the Pres’s), opinion pieces, videos and everything in between. If CNN wasn’t so repetitive I’d be on that 24/7. I even tuned into Fox News.
But I want my life back. I’ve had enough.
California is not the rest of America
It’s hard to get a sense of perspective here in LA though. LA—California—is obviously largely a democratic state. They abhor Trump. It’s like preaching to the converted. Every meeting with every friend is an update on wtf is going on. Even my Republican friends (yes, I do have Republican friends and they happen to be very nice, intelligent people).
Yes, we participated in the Women’s March. How could I not? How could one person with the signing of an Executive order set women back 500 years?
And what’s with these Executive Orders? Why haven’t past Presidents signed more of these in the past? Well it seems they have. It’s just that this one makes them count—Reality TV style.
One of my (US) friends asked a great question though. If being President was as easy as signing Executive Orders why then didn’t Barack Obama sign one to ban guns here in the US? Could it have been THAT simple? Wouldn’t that have been a good way to make use of this Executive Order caper?
So… You get the picture? I don’t need The House of Cards or Scandal anymore. I’ve got this new Show: The Trump House. And I’m addicted. But I hope it doesn’t get renewed. I can only cope with one season. It’s intense, it’s real, it’s scary. And I don’t know how much more of this I can take. What a way to be educated in American politics.
A couple of links to keep your sanity
Before I go here are a few links to two cracker videos that made me chuckle.
Ever wondered how to raise the perfect LA Princess? Have you heard of the phenomena I like to call The LA Princess? The LA Prince exists too but in merely a shadow of their counterpart. Let me explain.
Firstly, welcome back after a bit of work and a great Thanksgiving break.
If you’re playing along at home via Facebook and Instagram, we took a road trip to Utah. More about the travelog in the coming days (or weeks as the case might be!). I will just say though that it is indeed a spectacular part of the world.
Leaving behind the LA Bubble
I’ve decided that leaving LA bound for other parts of the US is good for the soul. It’s so easy to get caught up in the LA bubble we find ourselves in. And this is despite us trying to keep all eight feet on the ground. It’s not until you set foot outside the bubble that you realise you’re getting sucked in.
When we lived in China we used to call them “Get-out-of-China” holidays. This was simply because day-to-day life could be extremely difficult, constantly trying to navigate a world where the culture and the language are so so different from yours and extremely difficult to navigate.
The LA Princess Syndrome
Before I left LA I’ve been noticing the phenomenon I like to call the LA Princess syndrome. The LA Princess is unique in so many ways. And in other ways she is not new to you at all.
Perhaps the original LA Princess in my time was Paris Hilton (ironically went to the same school as my kids). She has been superseded by former bestie Kim Kardashian. And so, per the “Reality” Show, the Kardashians have big part to play in ensuring the LA Princess is alive and well.
But you don’t have to live in LA to be an LA Princess. From the comfort of wherever you are in the world—coupled with reality TV and Snapchat (don’t you know Instagram is for old people?! And yes I have a Snapchat account but still don’t know how to use it) you can raise an LA Princess.
Not unlike Sydney, LA is a melting pot of many cultures. And, like Sydney, there are many wealthy people around doing incredible things. But there is still somehow a difference. It’s difficult to put my finger on but it’s here.
I look to two friends as examples: both not from here, both wealthy with celebrity parents yet their children do not suffer from LA Princess syndrome. They must wander what on earth they’re doing wrong.
Controversially (or not) I think the bulk of the responsibility comes from the parents. (Shock. Horror).
Thankfully so many of my friends and their children don’t suffer from this syndrome or I might have to actually slit my wrists. But there’s enough LA Princess syndrome going on around for me to put together a little step-by-step guide on how to turn your perfectly normal girl into an LA Princess.
How to raise the perfect LA Princess
Here are five ways you can indulge your little Princess and turn them into an LA Princess.
1. Let her believe she’s the centre of the universe
The key is to indulge her. Indulge her in every way imaginable.
She is the centre of the universe isn’t she? Of course she is; let her know this. Only she matters.
My daughter has been playing school tennis. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs but I love that sport gives kids a sense of the real reality—they learn to win and lose, they learn that money doesn’t buy you everything and they learn about how to be a team player.
One Friday afternoon we were playing against another team and there were rumblings in the ranks (thankfully not on our team as they know our Coach will not stand for it). The conversation went a little something like this:
“We’re done, are you done?
“I don’t see why we should have to stay, I mean my daughter is finished. Can’t we just go?”
“I have so much to do and I don’t want to get stuck in the traffic.”
Yep that apple don’t fall far from the tree.
You can always tell which schools have a sense of team and which ones can’t see past themselves. We have played a number of teams whose girls just leave once they’re done leaving the last game standing to fend for themselves. In fact, one of the games nearly came down to a forfeit because the match was shaping up to be a tie. If it was a tie the rules are you all get back on the court and play another set. But, without the girls there to get back on the court they would have to forfeit. Oops. Lucky we won the last game and spared them a little humiliation.
Then there was the girl who came off the court wallowing in self pity. Here’s the conversation I overheard (in your best Kardashian voice) to a teammate who also just came off the Court:
“I’m so bummed we lost. It was so close, they were the biggest cheaters, we so should’ve won. And now I won’t be MVP” (Most Valuable Player).
But for every LA Princess you come across a girl who falls far short.
There’s one girl on our team who is nowhere close to being an LA Princess. She’s a sub who rarely gets to play. This girl is the first to cheer on her teammates, brings the best kick-ass snack to the games, take photos and is one of the first to ask the girls how they went in their match if they came off a different court to the one she’s been watching.
Now this girl has a lot of work to do before she can even dream of being an LA Princess. Poor darling.
2. Let her do whatever she wants
It sounds easy enough doesn’t it? Makes your job as a parent much easier and your popularity will go through the roof! But try as I might I just can’t seem to pull it off. If I let my daughter do whatever she wants you better head for the hills. If a 14-year-old girl gets to gallivant around town using her Uber account and credit card without her parents knowing where she is there’s no knowing what sort of trouble she’ll get into. And then for the rest of her life she’ll think it’s OK to do what she does. A monster is what she’d be. Oh wait …
3. Let her have whatever she wants
This is where I need the most work. I have myself the ultimate consumer. She wants everything: new fancy fast cars for us each year (at least she’s a sharer), new clothes every time she goes shopping, lots of makeup, (expensive) jewellery, eating out at the hip & happening joints all over town and let’s not forget front row seats to every must-Snapchat-from concert. Yep, if I followed this rule we’d be out on the street with nowhere to live. Fortunately for most 90210 parents they have the budgets to sustain this over-the-top spending. Fortunately, too, I hasten to add, for the LA Princess.
I once had someone beg me to let my daughter go with her daughter so her daughter wouldn’t miss out on her Snapchat-worthy event. I’ve still got a lot of work to do. That-a-way.
4. Don’t set any boundaries.
When we first arrived I was privy to this discussion. Hashtag priceless.
“I took all the devices off my child yesterday. You need to learn your lesson I told her adamantly. Then I told her if she’s good all week tomorrow I would go and buy her a new one. Now she has two and she uses them both. I’m so proud of her.”
Yep, you tell them. That will teach her.
Then there was the time before that where she broke her screen. A group of three families were out. The then-12-year-old broke her screen on her phone. She was crying hysterically. Mr H said, “Don’t worry you can get the screen replaced just down the road.” The other dad chimed in, “Yes, and we just did it for our daughter, so easy and so much better than buying a new phone.” The next day she has a brand new phone. It’s OK though, they fixed the old phone too. You always need more than one phone don’t you know.
Either kids are really good here but you never hear of anyone really being grounded. They are more like the exception to the rule.
So boundaries people, no need for them either. Raising an LA Princes is easier than you think huh?
5. Dress her appropriately
I have to say this is perhaps one of the most important things to consider. There are a few looks to be embraced in order to become an LA Princess. All of them are acceptable.
The first look is the leggings (must be a brandname, eg. Lulu Lemon) with tight top. If the top is too long you can use an elastic to tie it above the hips to one side.
The next look is the short shorts with the Brandy Melville crop top.
Finally you can wear tight jeans with a crop top.
As the girls get older, designer handbags become the norm. (Remember I discovered this the hard way when I first arrived). Then designer shoes with 10” heels (they can barely walk in) start to creep into the wardrobe. And now we are entering the “jewellery-your-mother-doesn’t-even-have” phase with the Cartier love bracelet being the piece du jour. Buy Hermes will do too.
A word of warning about this “recipe for success”
This might seem easy but it is not as straight forward as it might seem. You might need to play around with the proportions.
For example, some LA Princesses only need to feel like they are the centre of the universe with very little of any of the other ingredients. Others have whatever they like but still struggle to pull off the LA Princess. Others still have seemingly everything they want yet are still not content and are looking for something more. Others look the part but struggle to own it; to act the part.
And others want to try to raise LA Princesses but can’t quite bring themselves to follow the rules.
We’re back in our bubble now. For a little less than a week, however, my daughter was privy to how the rest of the world lives once again. She said life would be much easier if we didn’t live in our bubble. But that’s it isn’t it? To learn to live as most people do within our bubble.
Election fever hits America. In a big way. It’s been ONE & A HALF years in the making and “the day” is almost upon us.
It’s Monday morning here in LA and the nation is abuzz with election fever: people are going to the polls early which means the talk about going to vote must be working.
This isn’t a political Blog, I’m not political but being in America for our first election and there are so many observations I’ve made. This election has played a big part of our daily life here: you can’t escape it.
Some of my observations are unique to America, others are themes emerging in a troubling world.
Here are five things this Aussie girl in LA has noticed over the last year and a half.
1. The money
For God’s sake America. Wake up and smell the coffee. You abandoned the sovereign to create a better world. You rejected all things of the Mother Land because you wanted better. And you created a monster. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: curtail the money spending. If you don’t have it, cut back; you can’t afford it.
I’ve mentioned the amount of money spent on those lengthy campaigns. I’ve talked about those Conventions and how the balloons at the Democratic Convention alone would be enough to feed & house LA’s homeless (unsubstantiated but don’t let truth get in the way of a good argument). Last night we were researching what happens on Wednesday, the day after the election and we got this story.
This struck me:
“Once either Clinton or Trump has been declared winner the new president-elect will be … given a multi-million dollar budget.
In 2008, Barack Obama was said to have employed a 450-person team at a cost of $12 million. Of that, $5.2 million as reportedly paid for by the US Government, with the remaining $6.8 million coming from private sources.”
I get that it takes money to do these things, and that people cost money, blah, blah, blah. It just seems to be like a sh*t load of money they don’t actually have.
And can we talk for a minute about the big-time donors lining the politicians pockets, eg the NRA. I’m not saying any new here but, they’re doing that for their own gain and not for the greater good. All that money. Feed the homeless, help the refugees, feed the world and all that. Ouch. Just ouch.
2. The media
I hate to say this but Donald Trump is right: the media is against him. It’s not half obvious. With the exception of Fox News (which I refuse to watch) no one is on Donald Trump’s side.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. But still. There is no such thing as unbiased reporting in this country. But in lots of ways that unbiased reporting has failed: there are still all those bloody Trump supporters out there, so loyal and so one-eyed that they fail to see anything the media is trying to tell them.
Yes, the media is having a field day with record viewers following the greatest circus on earth. I’ll be so grateful when it’s over. I’m even looking forward to Viagra ads in place of the political ads. Prop this Prop that. Vote. Vote for me, vote for her, don’t vote for them. It’s when I’m grateful other countries like Australia only have a short election cycle.
3. The pride Americans take in announcing who they vote for
No one keeps who they vote for a secret. It’s all out there for everyone to see and debate. They’re so proud of who they vote for, which party they follow.
In contrast few people really talk about who they vote for in Australia. It’s certainly not widely known, nor is it typically dinner party conversation. It can be assumed and guessed about but not always qualified.
I don’t know who Mr H votes for. For as long as I’ve known him he’s always told us he’s voted for the Donkey. (In Australia it’s compulsory to vote; if you don’t you get fined. People who don’t want to vote properly incorrectly fill in their voting form and that is known as a Donkey vote). He swears he doesn’t by the way but I’ll never know.
4. The system is so bloody complicated
My son is studying US History this year so has been able to explain some of the concepts and history behind the way this system works. I love that he can do that as it helps to understand so much without being my “we’re so much better in Australia” diatribe.
I’ve just heard about the Electoral College having the final say. So this group of “mainly-middle-aged-men” to the people and “a fair representation of the people” officially, meets to vote on who should be President and Vice-President.
Here’s a good video from the History Channel to illustrate:
So, I’ve learnt about the nomination process, Conventions, caucuses and Primaries and now I’ve been introduced to the Electoral College.
Wondering if the Electoral College actually votes in someone other than the people’s vote? Me too. In 2000, for example, Al Gore got more votes than George W Bush but George W got the Electoral College vote. Guess who was President?
I have given my American friends such a hard time about these elections. But what about this guy? This guy who I’ve found the day before the election. Good on you mate. You are absolutely what America stands for, why Americans are such a pain in the ass–because they are so damned patriotic and believe–only because we are envious of you. There are loads of people like you but, like you, we’ve seen the ugly. Fuelled by Trump and the media we are seeing far too much of ugly America. If you are as you say, and this happened as you said, you are not.
You are a hero.
So who are the villains?
Well that’s easy: Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a bully. He is bigly awful. Full stop. Period. Go away Donald Trump; you’re bringing out the worst in your followers. You are bringing us back decades. Nothing you say has substance and nothing you do is inspiring.
The day after the night before
What will you be doing on Wednesday? My son and his friends were pondering what a weird day Wednesday will be: the aftermath. I couldn’t agree more. But these guys aren’t President straight away. Obama still has time to “finish doing what he set out to do” and come January 20, 2017 at noon the new President and Vice-President will be sworn in.
So there’ll still be plenty of time for the media to ease their way out of it gently. Please let go, please move on.
In the meantime good luck world.
Good Luck America.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: There is a petition to shorten America’s election cycle. If you agree with Sheryl Crowe that it needs some help click here and have your say.
PPS: If Trump gets in do you think that Wall will be strong enough to fight the stampede out of the US? The mind boggles.
When does Neighbourhood Watch get classified as stalking–or just plain nosey?
When did neighbourhood watch become stalking? There’s stalking. And then there’s stalking. Right? In my best Kim Kardashian voice: I feel like the term stalking is so overused these days.
These days stalking describes social media habits—you know the ones? Your Facebook friends who know exactly what you’ve been up to but don’t ever press the like button (you know who you are). Then there’s the people that hop on your Instagram and browse your page and like all the photos they haven’t liked because, well, they like them. In this day and age this is stalking. The fear of the double-tap is real people.
What about when you have a neighbour who happens to be an actor and you glance over to see if there’s any activity in the front yard. Is that stalking? We all do it, don’t we? Glance over to see what the neighbours are up to? Don’t we or is that just me? In my day it was Neighborhood Watch—note the capitals to show it’s a genuine bona fide program. These days (especially if you live next door to a person of interest) it’s called stalking.
Is it stalking when you follow them in the car because you both happen to leave your houses at the same time? That happened to me the other week. He pulled out first (unbeknown to me) and I was on my way to tennis. How was I supposed to know that he was traveling in my direction? For the longest time. The longest time. Suddenly I felt like a stalker yet all I was doing was doing what I always do on a Thursday morning.
It got so bad that I put my indicator on and moved into the right-hand lane ultra early so he’d know I had a purpose—and that purpose was not to follow him. How was I supposed to know that he was turning right on that street too? Maybe he was stalking me? I’ve never been so relieved to see the tennis courts were up ahead and I was turning off thus ending the seemingly stalking-like behaviour. (And, by the way, in case he was stalking me he now knows where I play tennis.)
There was the time Miss 14 and I were reversing out of house and we noticed his double doors that we hadn’t noticed before. We were noticing how nice they looked. “Oh God mum, he’s caught us stalking him how embarrassing.”
“That’s not stalking, that’s admiring his doors,” I was quick to comment back. Isn’t it?
Admiring our house
Maybe he’s a little paranoid of stalking us too. He told me he loved our house and how pretty it is. “If you catch me staring at your house it’s just because I think it’s so beautiful”. (See, goes to argument of him stalking me.)
When we got our beautiful new gate put in, he fell in love with our house all over again. My daughter was walking out the gates and caught him looking in. “Just admiring your beautiful new gates,” he said.
When Mr 16 got his car and licence I saw him not long after and said, “Check it, I have my very own driver now.”
“I know,” he replied.
See? See? It’s not stalking to survey the scene, admire the renovations, goings on, check that everything is as it should be; look, notice and move on. I think that’s healthy good neighbour behaviour. And if he was anyone other that who he is then I wouldn’t even be having this conversation with you.
Mrs Mangle/Mrs Kravitz/Nosey neighbour
But at what point does “genuinely-interested-neighbourhood-watch-neighbour-who’s-not-a-stalker” turn into “nosey-neighbour”?
Nosey neighbours make great television. Over the years there has been many a classic nosey neighbour (whom I hasten to add you love to hate). They invented Neighbourhood Watch.
I get it—there are definitely those neighbours who gawk and spend hours out the window with curiosity at fever pitch. But that’s not me. Is it?
My 16-year old and I were out the front washing cars and he came out into his front yard. We couldn’t see him, we could only hear him. My first instinct was to yell over the fence, “Hi. Need your car washed?” But all I could think of was nosey Mrs Mangle from Neighbours or that Mrs Kravitz from Bewitched.
Remember this is the young lad that knocked on my door when he first bought the house? I can say “hi” can’t I?
But instead we stayed quiet and pretended that we didn’t know he was there. How lame is that? I wanted to say hi, why shouldn’t I say hi but the kids’ paranoia coupled with my vision of Mrs Kravitz trying to catch her neighbours out stopped me dead in my tracks.
Instead of friendly neighbour saying hi all I could picture was that dreaded neighbour who comes out from out of the bushes every single time you head outside saying, “Yoohoo”. Damn you stalkers and nosey neighbours. You make it hard for us normal non-stalking stalkers to live.
Mrs Kravtiz from Bewitched (image copied from Michael in Madrid the Blog).
Bodyguards outside my house
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before that my daughter has a rather famous friend. I think I may have but those of you who are new to the Blog might not know. Anyway, this friend has been coming over to the house a bit lately. His visit comes with a bodyguard. Sometimes I know who the bodyguard will be, other times I don’t.
The first time I knew the bodyguard was going to be outside I thought I better text G to let him know the person sitting in the car outside my house is not paparazzi, nor a stalker but a bodyguard.
There’s quite a perk to having a bodyguard stationed outside your house. Firstly, well it’s obvious, you feel safe. And let’s face it in LA that’s as good as it gets.
Their very first “hang” I was told they’d be fine as the bodyguard would be there to watch over them. I must admit my first thought was that’s all great but if something’s going to happen your bodyguard is paid to protect your son and my daughter might not be able to get the same level of protection. I don’t know how this all works, it’s still new to me.
The second perk to having a bodyguard stationed out the front of your house is well … the couple I’ve met have been very easy on the eye.
Will the real nosey neighbour please stand up
The guy that lives opposite from us walks his dog 10 times a day. He stops outside your house, looks in, lurks and lurks. When we first moved in, he and his mates would sit in his garage talking for most of the day. I thought this was fabulous: the best neighbourhood watch you can get.
Then when my gate and front fence were being put in my “gate guy” would report back on his chats through the day. The real nosey neighbour was telling our gate guy about how the neighbours didn’t want our house built, how the lady on the corner asked everyone why they needed to tear down a perfectly good house to make way for a new one. I’m pretty sure this guy knows everything that goes on at my place. I warned G when he moved in.
We look straight into his place from ours so it’s actually much easier to stalk him than it is G next door. We never really see anyone other than him. Sometimes we see someone who may be his son, rarely see any females but there are three cars in their drive. The one thing that strikes us though is the number of people who pull up, go into their garage and come out again. Some come with packages, others don’t. That’s what’s earnt him the nickname “The Drug Dealer”.
In a further twist, one day I was at the kids school picking them up and there he was waiting in the carpark. I have no idea who he was picking up. I have no idea what he was doing there.
I’d know if someone from school lived near us as we have a carpool dating app. The carpool dating app essentially allows us to hook up with our neighbours to arrange to carpool to and from school. If you don’t carpool then you have to drop off ultra early and pick up ultra late so it’s in your best interests to hook up. Plus it saves you driving the school every day. And, in a very un-American twist they police it.
A real stalker would have stayed in the car to see just who he was picking up and work out exactly what he was doing there. Was he making a drug delivery?
But alas, I’m a failure in the nosey neighbour/stalker department.
We haven’t seen the drug dealer at school since but the mind boggles.
I don’t know about you but I don’t have time to Facebook stalk. I always forget to even when I think I should go into their page and see what’s been going on. But, when I comment on someone’s post I get the notifications and occasionally one pops up and you think, “get out of town” or “that’s interesting”.
Over the weekend it was a friend’s birthday. Birthday post notifications were coming in thick and fast. One post caught my attention as I recognised the surname. Yes, it was the wife of one of my fave actors, minding her own business commenting on a friend’s post just like I did, safe in obscurity. Well from everyone that is but this alleged-not-so-good-at-being-nosey stalker.
Just another one of those, “Holy cow I do live in LA don’t I?” moments.
When good neighbours become good friends
Back to neighbours, or neighbourhood watch as the case might be.
When I was growing up one of my fondest memories was being outside painting with my Dad. The neighbour dad comes out and says hi, two seconds later neighbour mum comes out saying come for a drink. Next thing you know there were four neighbour families all having drinks, which turned to dinner and we didn’t leave til the wee hours in the morning. Fun times.
You tell me. Be honest. Pretend I’m still neighbours with Sue & Tony in Sydney, or Sue & John in Shanghai, or the neighbours I grew up with. Do you think I’m nosey or a “stalker” or just a friendly neighbour? I would think nothing of calling out to them, or inviting them over for a drink. It would be rude if I didn’t. Or they didn’t.
But they’re not actors whose every move are scrutinised in the tabloids I suppose. Watch this space.
I’m not living in 90210 anymore, instead I’m a “Valley Girl”. There is a whole backstory (and a half) that goes along with the move but for now let me tell you this: I didn’t want to move; I wanted to keep my 90210 postcode. Who wouldn’t?
Apart from loving the area, having friends close; we were surrounded by “celebrities” new and old, famous and infamous. I knew there were many celebrities in the Valley too but most likely not in my street or little neighbourhood.
That’s where I was wrong.
Yep, my life is not scripted or made more dramatic for the Blog, my life is just very LA. The day a ‘famous’ actor moved in next door.
When your neighbour turns out to be “so so famous”
The day we moved in our neighbours put up a For Sale sign. Nice welcome. Thank God they did because they weren’t very nice and not at all friendly.
Fast forward six or so weeks (the house sold within 10 days of being on the market) and the house was abuzz with renovation. That afternoon I got a knock at the door.
(The shitty thing about moving down into the suburbs of The Valley is that it’s too easy to walk up and down the streets so we get every man and his dog wanting to sell us their wares and convert us to ‘see the light”.)
So that afternoon I get a knock on my door. And it’s not someone in black pants and a white shirt or someone selling LA Times subscriptions.
At my door is a rather groovily dressed guy in hipster pants, a T-Shirt, and a red baseball cap.
“Hi. My name is Glenn and I’ve just moved in next door.”
1. Glenn is not his real name so you can forget about switching over to Google ‘Celebrities with the name Glenn’.
2. He had the most delightful British accent—music to my ears.
He continues, “I’m so sorry about the noise, I’m renovating my house and I asked the guys to start at 7am but I heard they started at 6am.”
“No problems,” I replied. “We’re up anyway and we didn’t even notice the noise.”
Did I mention he had a plant in hand, handing it over as a “peace offering”?
What beautiful manners was my first reaction. It’s not often I’ve seen anyone here with such consideration for the neighbours let alone coming in with a thoughtful gift. Ah! That’s because he’s not from these parts.
It was a short encounter, he handed over the gift, we exchanged pleasantries and I got on with my afternoon. Actually, truth be told, I wasn’t very warm—I should have invited him in but I was so fearful of our dog weeing all over him that I barely had the door open wide enough for him to feel the least bit welcome. And why is it that whenever I get a random knock at the door I’m looking like shite?
Celebrity next door?
That night as everyone was coming home we talked about how exciting it was to have a non-American neighbour (sorry American friends) who was thoughtful and youthful. (I’ve guessed his age as mid to late 20s). We haven’t had a great trot with neighbours so I didn’t want to get too carried away. For now I reserve my judgement, on a scale of 1 to 10, as 7.0—hopeful.
My daughter asked me what the neighbour did.
“I don’t know, we didn’t get that far,” I said. “I assume he’s an actor.”
My daughter laughed at me. “Mum, you just assume everyone in LA is an actor. Or at least in Entertainment. They don’t have to be you know; you’re so weird.”
She was right of course. He didn’t look like an actor, he was totally unassuming and he was incredibly nice and polite.
So we started talking about the assumptions you make when you live in a certain place.
“What would you assume he did if we were in Sydney?” my daughter asked. “Well most people in Sydney work traditional hours. I guess he would be in IT (working from home).”
In Wales it’s easy as many people work shift work. In China … well I don’t think that would happen as everyone goes to an office–maybe work in hospitality but by that time of day they would already be at work.
So I saw Glenn a number of times as he set about renovating his house to move in.
He moved in and there was music coming from his backyard and a bit of life in what is otherwise a quiet neighbourhood. it was good. A week later, as he kids had friends over with the music going, there was a little gathering going on next door.
My son’s British friend noted, “your new neighbours are lit.”
“Yeah right”, I said, “He’s British.” We laughed and thought nothing more of it.
Than we noticed our dream car—Audi R8—outside the front of our house.
He must totally be an actor.
Living next door to a celebrity
Another week goes by and one night my daughter sees “someone” coming and going from our neighbour’s house. She yells from her room.
“Mum, there’s a famous guy next door. Is he visiting or is our neighbour famous?”
“I’m not sure honey, let’s see.”
By some stroke of a miracle the “famous guy” comes back down his drive.
“Oh honey, that’s Glenn. That’s our neighbour.”
Squeals of delight and excitement ensue with a shrill only a 13 year-old can pull off. In one Snapchat her entire friend network knows the news.
“Oh my God, I’m pretty sure I just read he recently moved in with his girlfriend. And <screams> you know who it is? It’s Hannah Montana (clearly NOT a real person but I’m not going to divulge her real name and you get the idea that we’re actually talking about someone with HIGH name recognition amongst the tweens and teens).
More squeals … and lots of Googling.
“Oh my God, oh my God, I’m living next door to HANNAH MONTANA.”
And so, my fear of moving away from the celebrity action couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead I have a bona fide ‘it’ couple living right next door to me.
Such a good question: what do kids in Beverly Hills kids do for fun? Perhaps we need a branch-off reality series: the Real Kids of Beverly Hills. (Dibbs: if that comes out I want a cut of the takings).
Of course, in all seriousness, this was one of my fears: how do I raise a “normal” child in LA. It’s true I was focussed more on the safety of “living in America” (you know? guns, mass shootings and metal detectors) but also going into a private school with many celebrity kids and alumni alike I was worried about “keeping up with the 90210-ers”.
But it’s just about the money. In some ways, that’s the easy bit. (If you’re relatively new to the Blog you might have missed my post on handbags & designer clothes. You can link back to read it here. And it might be time to freshen it up as it’s a little too cryptic in hindsight).
No matter where you live you come across some parents who are prepared to let their kids do stuff and others not so much. Then there are those “in-betweens”. That’s me—somewhere in-between. When we lived in Shanghai the teenagers grew up really quickly. With no legal drinking age, a really safe City and these people called “drivers” and things called taxis, kids start going to Clubs when they’re 15. I was happy not to have my kids growing up in that environment (despite doing something similar at that age). But LA is a different kettle of fish again.
Cut back to present day LA …
My 13-year-old daughter wanted to go to The Grove shopping with her own with a friend. I love the Grove but it’s often packed, filled with tourists and very, very exposed. I didn’t want her going without a parent lurking somewhere close by. She’s still only 13. Right? Plus, I didn’t let my son start going to the larger Malls until he was 14/15. On top of that I don’t know about you but I hate the whole “Let’s-go-hang-out-at-the-mall-today” thing. It’s just so … eek and unimaginative and, well, even I don’t like hanging out in Malls.
Thankfully her friend’s mum was of the same opinion as me and together we poo-pooed it. Five minutes of incessant texts asking “Why?”, “The Grove is safe”, “Now we have nothing to do” and that was it. Radio silence.
Beverly Hills kids
Then, no more than 10 minutes later all was good in the world again. She was at her friend’s place having a lovely time. I got sent pics of houses and locations all over her friend’s gated community. They both have very 90210 Segways (you know the ones without the handles?) so they went riding around, exploring. Happy as can be. Beverly Hills kids indeed, with a touch of my normal.
“We’re at Gwen Stefani’s house” was the next text. “It’s so cool.” Then, “I can’t send you a photo because there’s security watching.”
It’s OK, there’s a bit of an unwritten rule anyway that if you go to a famous person’s house that you’re mindful of what you take photos of—and what you post. Same if you’re going to live in the same community as Gwen Stefani there’s an unwritten good-neighbour policy that goes along with that. We’ve also had the discussion about when she goes into famous friends’ parties. Even if they’re really, really famous! (And it kills this Blogger that she can’t write about them).
Still on Gwen Stefani, my friend—her friend’s mum—drives the same car as Gwen (not me LA Gwen, Stefani Gwen). One day, back when speculation was rife surrounding her relationship with whatsis-face-Blake-country-dude she was coming out of her community, was going to turn right, hesitated and instead turned right. She thought nothing of the car following her except they were travelling at some speed. When she got to the traffic lights she saw the driver with a long lens on their camera. One solid look at her and the camera went down and it was back to see if they had missed the real Gwen coming out. Poor Gwen.
But the converse of that is feeling sorry for people like Gwen who, apart from the sanctity of her home, can’t escape the attention. I wrote about how since I arrived in LA I’ve changed my opinion of celebrities and how I don’t believe we have a right to judge them I got a bit of heckling back. The argument is when you put yourself out there and make money from being in the spotlight then you are asking to be scrutinised.
I don’t think so, I think it’s two very separate things. You can be curious (like, let’s face it we were with Gwen Stefani) but you don’t have a right to be part of their lives and intrude in a sanctity that is their privacy. My humble opinion. (And don’t give me that shit about they became a singer or actor to get celebrity; very few people I know actually think like that and their “celebrity” often catches them off guard.)
Don’t be hating
I have a friend who is very successful, he has a great Instagram account and understands that his money is made from the people that support and buy his product. What upsets me is when people start being nasty. And do they ever let loose. Being out there in the spotlight is like a target to the power target. People feel fine commenting on someone’s social media accounts because they don’t have to say it to their face so they feel protected. For some reason, if you’re a well-known identity or celebrity—or you put yourself out there like I and many other Bloggers do—then it’s OK to say whatever you like. Like nasty comments won’t hurt them. The more famous you are doesn’t automatically mean you get an extra layer of protection to stop getting hurt by what people say about you. NO MATTER HOW FAMOUS. And, by the way, sometimes you get even more sensitive.
So, yes, I felt for Gwen Stefani. I love whenever I visit my friends seeing the tour buses stopping at the front—we often wave to them even when they get in our way! It’s part of living where we do in LA. And part of how this Blog started. And it’s fun to get a glimpse of the paparazzi waiting for some action. Again, it’s part of living in LA. But, it’s also good to stop and reflect on the reality of those people being there means to some.
Oh, that also answers the question are they all looked after by Nannies. Most of my kids friends aren’t; only a small handful are. And even then their parents are very hands-on and connected. And only a couple of them have Bodyguards. (Just thought I’d throw that in there for you to see if you’re reading along).
But where was I? Oh yes, what Beverly Hills kids do for fun.
On the other side of town my son was hanging with a friend. Collectively he and two friends are obsessed with Garlo’s Aussie Pies, an Australian pie shop here in LA. On my way to dropping my son I needed to go to the ATM. To get to the ATM I have to drive right past their shop so I suggested we pick up their pies.
“No, you can’t do that mum, we’re getting Postmates.”
“Oh, you’re not getting Garlo’s anymore, you’re getting something else.”
“No, we’re getting Garlo’s.”
“OK, well seeing as we’re here why don’t I get it.”
“But we’re getting Postmates.”
“Yes, but we’re here”.
If you haven’t worked it out Postmates is “Uber for food.”
It’s the app of choice for 90210 kids who need something to eat and whose parents are happy to pay the $4.99++ delivery fee—plus tip.
When it first launched in LA kids were ordering $3.99 Frappuccino’s from Starbucks and paying $4.99 to have it delivered plus tip.
And my daughter wondered why I wouldn’t let her do it.
“$10 for a Frappuccino to be delivered? Are you aware there are refugees trying to flee Syria right now and countries who still don’t believe girls should be educated?” is my catch-cry du jour.
“Fine. You’re so embarrassing.”
Fortunately, we’ve stopped having the Frappuccino battle and I think I’ve even relented once and paid the delivery fee for take-away (take-out) one night. But I also don’t really need to when we still have old-fashioned take-away services where restaurants deliver for free. And I still don’t have to resort to Domino’s or Pizza Hut.
Speaking of Uber
Yes, so speaking of Uber, that would be the main form of transport of the kids these days. Even for my kids. It’s actually really convenient and great value. I still like getting in the car and driving them–let’s face it it’s how you get all the gossip–but when the LA traffic is going to get the better of you, I find it more than OK.
Taking it possibly a bit far is the kids who book an Uber to pick them up from school. And, there are also those kids who Postmates themselves after school. (Note to self: check if they do it at lunch time). Oh the things money can buy; and here’s me thinking you can use money for good.
And, to answer the private jet question, yes a couple of our friends regularly travel in private jets. There could be more and others I know have done on an ad hoc basis. My daughter has been invited more than once (unfortunately for her she couldn’t join them) and I’m not sure I’ll ever score an invite but hey, it’s LA so you never, never know.
What’s going on in your part of town? What do your kids do for fun? Are you happy with what they do or do you have to step in and play bad cop? Would love to hear all about it.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Sadly our favourite Aussie pie shop, Garlo’s, is now closed. We’re hoping it’s coming back in some way shape or form. We’re awaiting more news in that department. Please oh please come back.