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Clinging to our Motherland
My LA story, Posts, Soapbox

Clinging to our motherland: US Gov and guns

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.

US Gov

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).

Potluck night

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?”

Then we pull out the Port Arthur story and go, “Take that!”

Then the conversation goes one of two ways.

  1. Well it’s our right to bear arms it’s in the second amendment so there. OR
  2. 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.

 

Immigrants

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.

Many people say America and Australia aren’t that different–they’re essentially the same right? (Well, my series on the differences between Americans and Australians show just how different they can be lots of times).

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.

Chin up!

xx It Started in LA xx

* Don’t forget to #prayforTori

Why, what and how to tip in LA
Posts, Visiting LA

How, why and what should I tip in LA?

How do I tip in LA? I know, I know, I know.  You get to America and you’re like why do I need to tip? It costs me a fortune in tips. You might not like it but there is a logic behind tipping here in the US. I saw a great article written by a fellow Aussie who lives in San Francisco, Kat, so I asked her if she could write one for me and my readers (that’s you). She’s going to give you the low-down on the how, why and what should I tip in LA.

 

Over to you Kat!

Aussies have a terrible reputation in Europe and the US when it comes to tipping. I can say it because I am part of the problem. Social awkward at the best of times, I can never work out who expects to be tipped, who would see it as an affront and how much (or little) to give.

 

Us Aussies go on holiday or move to another country without giving much thought to the mathematical intricacies that will take up our daily life. Tipping means always having cash in your wallet – a habit that I’d long grown out of by the time I moved here.

 

I’ve suffered through many an embarrassing tipping moment in the past 18 months. From trying to work out 20% in my head in front of the Chinese takeaway (never going to happen) while smiling and talking to the hostess to staring at the tipping bowl at the checkout in the hardware wondering what I’d be tipping for exactly.

 

In the hopes of recovering our Aussie pride and becoming great tippers, here’s a list of things you need to know–who expects a tip (why) and who you should tip:

 

Parking attendant

Do you like your car? Did you invest a significant portion of your income in it? So you probably want it to be treated nicely. Round the parking fee up to the dollar and then add another couple of bucks for good measure.

 

Hairdresser

You sit inside the salon for what seems like an age. Washing, cutting, colouring, highlighting and/or blow drying. Probably talking a lot too. Those things don’t come cheap.
I wasn’t happy with the thought of adding a tip to that. But if they do a good job and you love your new do it’s customary to fork over an extra 20%.
Don’t forget the shampooist either. Tip them between $3 and $5 depending on whether they also apply your colour or toner.

 

Bathroom Attendant

(Seriously… You’ve seen Ferris Bueller, they’re there and they’re looking for a tip! -Gwen)

If you frequent the types of places that have attendants handing you towels and breath mints in the bathrooms, you probably don’t need to be reading this article. You can afford to part with a dollar or two. Don’t be stingy.

 

Uber/Lyft

Before I owned a car here I relied on Uber a fair bit and I never tipped once. It just never occurred to me to tip the driver. Even though the official Uber line is that you don’t need to tip, it’s good manners to hand over 20%, especially considering how cheap the fares are.

(Ooops–I wish I didn’t read this now Kat! –Gwen)

 

Movers

No one likes moving and I’m guessing that you’ve hired movers because you couldn’t rope your mates in with the promise of a slab of beer. It seems you have to tip every member of the moving crew between $25 and $50 each. I know, it hurts.

 

Hotel Maids

When you leave the bed in a rumpled mess, duvet and towels on the floor and junk everywhere, it’s a good idea to tip the maid between $2 and $5 each day. Maybe the price difference is dependent on the mess you make?

 

Home Delivery

The person who sat in traffic, braved the cold, wind, rain or heat to bring you food because you were too lazy to go out and get it yourself, deserves a tip. Stop being such a tightarse and hand over 20% online while you’re ordering or have some cash ready for when they make it to your door.

 

Bartender

I don’t understand this one. Seriously, you stand behind a bar and take the twist top off a bottle or pull a beer for me. Does that really require a tip? Yes. Give the bartender some loose change or a $1 bill. A cocktail’s going to set you back a little more though.

 

Waiter/Waitress

Sure they get paid minimum wage, which means $10.50 in LA. Imagine trying to pay your rent and bills on $10.50 an hour? That’s why they have to live off tips. So if you don’t like the food from the kitchen but the service was great, don’t penalise the waiter/waitress by withholding the tip. Give them the customary 20% and thank your lucky stars that you’re not in their shoes.

 

(I researched this one day, actually.  And, to make it worse, they don’t actually get that whole 20%.  First they have to “tip out” the runners and the maître d’.  So, if you’re short-changing them their 18-20% then they’re the ones that get screwed. It’s a hard way to make a living so cut them a little slack. –Gwen)

 

Car Wash

Not that it’s been necessary with all the rain we’ve been having, but sometimes it’s worth getting your car washed by someone else. Sling between $2 and $5 their way, depending on the kind of wash you’ve asked for.

Personal Care

Things like waxing, facials, manicures and pedicures fall under this category. Don’t just sit there and switch off, only to realise an hour later that they’ve done something you don’t actually like. Pay attention! Tipping between 15% and 20% is plenty.

 

(I went to the Hotel Bel Air for a facial not so long ago and they automatically added 20% so don’t be surprised when big hotels do that–they’re probably more than familiar with those of us not used to tipping. And yes, it does bring the price of that treatment right up there!–Gwen)

 

Those are my tips on tipping. Now give me your opinions or tell me if I’ve missed someone. 

 

Thanks Kat. If you like Kat’s work hop on over to her Blog and have a good read.

You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

I hope you understand a little more about why you actually should tip rather than bury your head in the sand!  It’s not the person’s fault, it’s the system!

xxIt Started in LAxx

 

Renewing my expired CA Driver's Licence | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Moving to LA, Posts

Renewing my expired CA Driver’s Licence

Renewing my expired CA Driver’s Licence? (California but you know that!) Doesn’t it seem like only a few months ago I (finally) got my Californian driver’s license?

Well.  At home you can renew your license for 5 years or 10 years (5 years now if you’re over a certain age. Ugh).  Here (where, let’s face it, bureaucracy isn’t their strong point) they only give you a licence valid for the length of your Visa. Somehow though, even though my Visa is valid until next March my license was only valid until November.

I got a form in the mail telling me to fill in the blanks, provide a copy of my passport and my i94 and visa page in my passport.

Alas I never heard back and so you know what that meant?

Yup, it meant I had to go in and apply to renew my license.

Again you know what that meant don’t you? Yep, forms and queue.  Horrendous.

We were going on our road trip so it was important for me to get my license renewed.  Mr H was at home so could take over my carpool and I’d get up and join the DMV queue at 7AM (ish).

Trying to pack and get organized I needed to wash my hair.  My first instinct was to put a beanie on, suck it up and head over.  But with a bit of packing still to do, appointments banked up and precision timing required I decided the safest thing to do was to actually do my hair, pop on some eyeliner and finish the rest of my make up when I came home.

I head on down (still early enough) to join the queue.  There is always the longest queue at those DMVs it’s a nightmare.

So to share my pain with my fellow expats living in LA here you go.  Three steps to renew your Californian license.

Renewing my expired Driver’s Licence

This applies to renewing “in-between” times because it’s coinciding with your Visa date not the length of time they would have given you a license.

1.  Get in the queue early. Best to be there around 7/7:15 to get the shortest wait time.  Seriously.  If you don’t want to wait in the queue make an appointment, it saves so much time. (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/portal/foa/welcome).  Having said that sometimes you don’t have a chance as appointments can take weeks to wait for.

2.  Complete the form.  It is the same form as when you applied.  It’s called the DL44 and it must be the original form.

     Some things you’ll need to know or bring to get your temporary licence:

  •      Expired license
  •      i94
  •      Passport
  •      You’ll also need to know your Social Security number for the form (I know Americans know it by heart but I don’t).

3.  Wait your turn and they’ll process your form.

That may well be good information but here’s the number one tip I will leave you with:

DO YOUR HAIR AND MAKE-UP

Because they’re issuing you with a new license.  That means a new photo.

Oddly enough there was no fee to get you a new license.  (And on the positive how much cheaper are licenses are to get here?)

One more thing.  And this happened to my son who passed his test and hasn’t had his proper license yet (three months later).  And it happened to Mr H whose temporary license kept expiring and he had to continually follow up.  If you don’t get your license back you might need to call this number:

Legal Presence:  (916) 657 7445

I believe it might just jolt the system back into place and move your license along a bit.  That’s because our licences have to go through an extra step.  I was recommended to call the two weeks before the temporary one expires.

Good luck. You might just need it.

xx It Started in LA xx

Five things to do if you're moving to LA | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Moving to LA, Posts

Five things to do if you’re moving to LA

So you’ve just found out you’re moving to LA.  LA can be such a daunting beast—it’s big, there’s lots of traffic and one end of town is completely different to the other.  So, what do you have to do if you know you’re making the move and how do you navigate the process.

Five things to do if you’re moving to LA

1.   Pick your Location

It’s a toss up whether you pick your location first or pick your schools first.  If you have kids then it may be a bit of both.

If you don’t have kids then it’s easy: location, location, location.  I’d start with areas in and around work.  Think neighbouring communities, the actual community or communities that are easily accessed via one of the major freeways.

We wanted something close to Mr H’s work so it wasn’t a huge commute and then we wanted something that would be close to school.

So we looked at every area in between.  We found two houses, within 15 minutes of each other—one closer to the school we hoped to get into and the other closer to Mr H’s work—and we let fate decide which one we’d end up living in.  As it turns out we ended up in the house closest to school.  We were really lucky as it also turned out a number of the kids friends (whose parents became my friends) also lived in the area.

For you choosing location might have everything to do with choosing schools: especially if you’ve chosen to send your kids to public school (see below).

I’ve outlined the “main” areas to live in LA in this post a year or so ago; it talks through my journey scoping out locations. Its aim is to provide an overview of where to start.

Like I say, it’s best for all concerned if you’re as close to work and school as you can possibly be if you want to avoid spending all your time in your car.  Having said that some people make a lifestyle decision to commute.  Go figure but they do.  Test the traffic patterns, especially in peak hours.  The bummer about LA is it’s a sprawling acropolis and it’s hard to get around at the best of times, let alone peak times.  During peak hours it took me just under half an hour to get home from school drop off; outside that it’s less than 10 minutes.

Once you’ve chosen your location then you need to find somewhere to live.  I’ll be linking this to a post coming up on house-hunting and tips to secure a lease without a credit rating so stay tuned.

2.   Choose your Schools

If you have kids then you know this is vital.

Your first choice is whether you’re going to private or public school.  There are also in-between schools like religious ones or Charter schools.

Despite popular movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off not everyone goes to public school.  In fact, the LA Unified School District lacks money and as a result the quality of schools can be hit and miss.

Some areas offer great houses and great schools (Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Pasadena South for example) but the high rents could still lock you out.

When we did the sums on Santa Monica for example we decided it was cheaper to pay for private school than pay the higher rent required to live in the zone.  (Schools are funded by property taxes and most landlords pass on the property tax expenses in your rent—they’re not paying for your kids to go to school in a good area, they’re just going to make the money off it!).

Public school

If you’ve decided to go to public school then you’ve most likely chosen your area based on its reputation for having good schools.  You can always check a school’s rating on the Great Schools website.  And most house listings show the schools nearby with their rating—it’s that important over here.

Private school

Private school is not so easy, they’re often oversubscribed and can be hard to get into.  I was surprised that they can be even harder to get into than they can at home.  Many of the private schools are College Preparatory schools which in a nutshell means high in academics and may not be the place for your poor gorgeous spunky kid with learning issues.

There is probably one major difference between admission at school here and Australia.

You can only apply the year before the school year you want to enter.  So, as soon as the new school year starts admissions teams start holding open days to showcase their schools.  Applications are then due by end of the year (please don’t take my word for it—check this—and each school can be different).

At a nominated date in March you are told whether your child has been accepted or waitlisted.  You then have around two weeks to accept or reject your offer.  All the schools have the same date so you have to choose.

The problem for an expat family lies in the fact that we never know when we’re going to be moving.  Imagine we only found out in early May so as my story goes I had to wake up at 4am every day for a week ringing Admissions Directors pitching our family to see if they could let us in outside their traditional admissions cycle.  Each time I think back I think how lucky we were.

The other step you’ll have to take is to take an entrance exam.  For most LA private schools it’s a test called the ISEE.  The Catholic schools have a different test and I believe this is mainly for High School.

So here’s the thing: Americans get tutors for this test and put their kids through the ringer to exceed in it.  It’s a competition and he who has the most resources to throw at their kids can generally win (unless their kids aren’t test takers or smart and then they better hope they have heaps of money to bribe the schools in donations).  It’s a cynical but true story folks; be very afraid.  But, having said that my kids had a day’s notice they had to sit it (story in the linked blog) and they did it.  Thank God we were going in under extreme circumstances and didn’t have to compete with the masses!

The piece I linked above also has with a shortlist of private schools in LA.  There’s also a link to the differences in schools between Australia and LA that you might find interesting.  It still baffles me once and a while.

3.   Open bank accounts

It might sound simple but it’s not altogether that straight forward. You will first need a US address and perhaps if you’re an Expat a letter from your employer.

We started with a Citibank account in Australia which made it so much easier to open up accounts in the US.  Once Mr H’s pay was deposited into his account we were able to get credit cards with a decent credit limit.  Also we’re able to transfer money between our Citibank accounts in Australia and here in the US without fees.  Be careful though as I’ve recently heard others say they don’t have this feature on their accounts despite being Gold customers.

You can also open up accounts with your local US banks with a greater ATM network and perhaps even more branches.  We haven’t been inconvenienced by our Citibank account at all.  Well only the once in getting a mortgage but that’s another story.

4.  Sort out your credit

Oh my God. This is the BIG one.  Credit is the biggest nightmare for young people and for established families like mine moving to the US.  Everything hinges on it: your lease, a mortgage, credit cards, even opening up a bank account.  I know, go figure! The system is so fundamentally flawed but you have no choice but to play the game.

It will be virtually impossible to get a credit card as you have no credit history.  See my blog post (coming) on tips to getting your credit history up and running quick smart.  Get yourself a prepaid credit card or Amex, you’re using your own cash but it helps to establish your credit history.  Also try getting a couple of store cards.  If you do this buy a couple of small things on it and pay them off straight away.  This will build more credit.

Opening up electricity, gas and Cable/Internet accounts may also prove tricky.  Well not tricky so much as two things will happen—they’ll charge you a higher price (to them you’re a greater credit risk—yep seriously if you’re poor or struggling you pay more how is that even fair?) and they’ll most likely get you to put down a cash deposit.

5.   Get a car

With no credit it’s pretty hard to get a car without paying cash.  We managed to get a lease for the duration of our visa through BMW Finance.  They were able to say that we were previous owners of BMW and with Mr H’s letter of offer use that to secure the lease.  He arrived a couple of months before me and once I arrived it was much easier for me to get the second lease.

Another loyal reader of this Blog said his wife was able to get one car lease under her visa deal.  To get around it her and her husband applied for two leases simultaneously through two different manufacturers.  That way, when they were running the reports there was no record of the other lease.  Quite brilliant.  It worked for them so it could work for you too.

Long-term rentals are also possible.  But, beware, they are obviously considerably more expensive than a regular lease or possibly even buying the car.

My two cents worth

Take all the extra expenses into account when negotiating your move with your employer.  Or, if you’re doing the sums take into account bringing money into the US, the extra deposits you’ll have to pay and virtually living on cash as you establish yourself in the US’s highly flawed (yes I know I’ve said that before) credit system.

It will take you a good six to 12 months.  But once you get the hang of it it will get easier.  Hopefully for your sake it will be easier then when we made the move.

xx It Started in LA xx

What is the fine line between Neighbourhood Watch and stalking ... or just plain nosey? | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Neighbourhood watch or stalking?

 

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.

Neighbourhood watch

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.

In conducting a little research I came across this post.

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 Kravitz

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.

Facebook stalking

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.

xx It Started in LA xx

The difference between Americans & Australians: Federal elections -101 | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Differences between America & Australia, Posts

Politics and Federal elections

Politics and federal elections

The Presidential countdown is finally down to the last few weeks of the Federal election.  I’m not sure how CNN is going to fill its programming as it feels like the last 18 months (at least) has been spent in review of the “forthcoming” election.

It’s such an incredibly long process.  And I shudder to think how much money is spent.  The airfares, private jets, hotel rooms, entourage, campaign office, printing, verbiage, the Conventions and the advertising could possibly be enough to significantly reduce the US debt let alone feed an entire nation.

I like to think I’m pretty smart with my money; my motto is if you can’t afford something perhaps you should go without.  That’s pretty much how I feel about the election process here.  If you’re not going to change it, at least limit the spending.  (According to the FY17 Federal Budget, at the end of FY 2016, the gross US federal government debt is estimated at $19.3 trillion.  I rest my case.)

America is never going to change its political system—bloody hell they can’t even reduce gun ownership—so the purpose of this post isn’t to try to change them …  But seriously?

** After going to press I found this: it seems I’m not the only one who thinks America should shorten the election cycle.  Sign the petition, vote to save money and the headache of a lengthy, cumbersome, expensive process. **

OK, moving on.

So let’s do a little snapshot at the difference between America & Australia when it comes to…

Politics and federal elections

There are three major differences between elections in America and Australia.  (Actually there are probably no similarities but let’s just talk about these three things).

1. President v Prime Minister

So in Australia the head of the party elected in (Liberal, Labor—actually spelt Labor not Labour, Greens, Coalition, etc) gets to be the big guy (guy being a unisex term)—the Prime Minister.  Done.

In the US there is this big huge palaver that means someone like Donald Trump can go, “Hey, you know I’m pretty hot shit and I reckon I’d make a bloody good Pres.  So, with all my money I’m going to build a wall and make America great again.  And I’ll put myself in the race to be the nominee for the Republicans.  (Word has it that he has long been a Democrat.  Allegedly as I didn’t personally hear it from him).

OK it’s not quite that simple.  I’m not even sure how he pulled it off, where he got to the stage that he’s up there competing in the Primary.  (My friends promised me he wouldn’t—couldn’t—make it that far).  Now that you mention it I’m not sure how he got to the stage where he’s competing in the Federal election where he may well become President so let’s not get bogged down here.

Let’s just agree that in Australia you have to be the Leader of the Party to be PM and in America anyone can put their hand up to be Pres—you just have to put your life, soul and dollars into the process.

Qualifications for the Office of the President

In case you were wondering how these clowns can put their hand up and “avago” (Australian for have a go) I found this website.

     Age and Citizenship requirements—US Constitution, Article II, Section 1

  • No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

     Term limit amendment – US Constitution, Amendment XXII, Section 1 –
ratified February 27, 1951

  • No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

That’s it?  I was almost too scared to Google it as I thought there would be pages and pages of hyperbole.  You can be impeached for having an affair (allegedly) but you can be whoever you like as long as you’re American and you haven’t been President more than twice.  Wow.

And now we have proof: all you really do need is a big mouth, an over-inflated ego and lots of money.

Back on topic …

2.   How they get there (the PM and Pres)

In Australia each party chooses their head guy (unisex).  A bit like Tribal Council (aka Survivor) there is a lot of behind-the-scenes jostling, bullying, counting and favour-asking.  So then when they come together to vote the outcome is pretty much known.  Unless there’s a #blindside.

In this case the loser spends a lot of time trying to get their numbers back up so they call for a Leadership challenge.  Yes, this has happened a lot lately in Australian politics.

Back in the US a few people decide to join the race to be the Democrat nominee and a few people decide to be the Republican nominee.  For about a year they talk about how good they are, the pollsters conduct polls and CNN debates the pros and cons of each guy (unisex) in the running.

They go around the country, have some sort of vote (whatever that means) and finally, at a lavish event costing tens of millions of dollars, the winner gets to be the nominee.  In a nutshell, the dumbed down condensed version.

If you’re after a more educated, fact-checked opinion on the matter you can read about it here.  And here.

3.   Time

Yep, time.  In Australia an election gets called.  In the last federal election (2016) I think it was called eight weeks out.  Campaigning is only allowed in that time and I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere along the way a budget is nominated for each side.  This could be wrong—I get all my facts from Facebook and Twitter—and seriously, if you’re a kid doing your politics assignment I wouldn’t be plagiarising my post.  That’s not really important.  What’s important is that it’s not a lot of time (comparatively speaking), but it’s too much time (if you get what I mean).

In the US it stretches over a year from the time these guys (unisex) step out in the public domain to announce they’re putting themselves in the running to be President.  That’s when they go running around the nation, campaigning in swing states and all that.  By the time they’re nominated (at their Party Convention) we’re sick of seeing them and hearing about them.

Take a moment to think about the poor guys who lost after investing all that time and effort only to come nowhere.  Nowhere.  Do you even remember their names?  (OK except Bernie Sanders, everyone may well remember his name).

Donald Trump for President

Can we talk about Donald Trump?

Yes, it’s more than a little bit embarrassing that one of the Republican candidate is a man who doesn’t give a shit what he says, changes what he says and has no respect for anyone.  A N Y O N E.  Is a man who can’t even respect the system let alone represent the system.

Seriously the scary thing is not that “middle America” will vote for him, it’s the supposed intelligent people that vote for him.  And they will.

See my favourite middle America videos here, they’re laugh out loud before lol was a thing:

Election coverage

CNN is thriving on its election coverage.  It’s everywhere here in the US.

But, on my recent trip back home I was surprised to see how into the election everyone was.  Everyone was dutifully informed and wanted to know what it was like to live through a US election.  Even the debates were televised live.

I think this is possibly known as the Trump-effect but it’s also because Australia likes to keep a close eye on what’s going on around the world and work out how it might affect it.  (Something might I add isn’t done here).

Debates

The last debate was last night (Praise the Lord).  This is possibly the only thing that’s the same between our two countries—except of course the actual voting itself and even then it’s compulsory in Australia and not here.

So, the debates.  Here it’s done at different Universities (Colleges) and it’s done in front of a live audience.  The only deal is that audience has to be perfectly quiet, like they’re not there.

In Australia, it’s done in a television studio in front of a live, carefully selected audience.  That audience has buttons that they push throughout the night gauging their reaction.  This reaction is meant to be reflective of the greater Australian sentiment.  They call it the worm.  And much time is spent analysing the worm.

worm.jpg

Politics and the federal elections Australia style: the worm during the great debate/s.

(Image from North Coast Voices)

If only America would introduce the worm.  So much more for CNN to analyse. So much more for their guests to argue about.

Only 20 more days (or thereabouts) til we have to put up with this stoopid election.  I hope America finds more competitive candidates next time… Michelle Obama please step forward.

xx It Started in LA xx

When you're in LA you simply must visit The Broad; get the low-down here | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Reviews, Visiting LA

You simply MUST visit The Broad

You simply MUST visit the The Broad.

 

I know, I can hear you asking me: What’s the Broad?

 

Well, The Broad is a contemporary art museum in Downtown LA.

 

I know, I can still hear you: Contemporary art museum in LA?  Isn’t LA all about entertainment (celebrities), fitness (hiking and kale salad) and amusement parks (no need to explain them)?

 

Absolutely not! There is more to LA than good looks, expensive cars and getting an acting/producing gig.

 

Whether you’re planning your first trip to LA or you’re a seasoned veteran you simply must visit the Broad.

 

The Broad

(pronounced like it rhymes with road—not as in Broad beans)

 

Like I said, The Broad is a contemporary art museum in Downtown LA in a fabulous purpose-built building. The Broad opened its doors to the public on September 20, 2105. And it’s been gang-busters ever since.  According to a recent press release it attracted more than 820,000 visitors in its inaugural year–nearly triple its pre-opening projections and the largest first-year attendance of a new art institution in the US in recent years. Take that New York.

 

The Broad: the low-down

1. The collection is private—Eli & Edythe Broad’s own collection.

As an Australian (or anyone for that matter!), this is incredible on so many levels.

 

Clearly massive art lovers they’ve taken art appreciation to a whole new level.  It’s not all “theirs,” but rather they set up a foundation so the public can have access to and appreciate art as well.

 

Known as the Broad Art Foundation, the Broad is made up of a combination of the Foundation’s and their own personal collection.  Since they started collecting art some five decades ago they’ve amassed more than 2,000 pieces.  And it’s growing weekly.  They have a borrowing system where they lend art to galleries all over the world so they can share their collection with others.  What great people.

 

I wonder if they ever dreamed they’d amass such a collection?  And the collection is amazing.  I studied art at school and–don’t get me wrong–I really like it–but I’m not one of those people who can name famous artists—especially contemporary ones—like I’m naming rock bands or fashion houses. Mention Andy Warhol and, of course, I’ll know him.  Doesn’t everybody?  And don’t his paintings belong in some fandangled New York gallery rather than part of a private collection?  (I guess they do now!)

 

 

2. They funded (and built) the building.

To house art that they’ve collected that they’re sharing with us, they built a funky purpose-built building.  And the building is incredible.  The photos look incredible enough but up close—and when you’re inside it—it’s jaw-dropping.  The building itself is worth going to see.  Full credit to architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and executive architect Gensler.  (I actually think this has now passed the Guggenheim—and architectural wonder—as my favourite museum).

 

 

3.   Check out the special installation on the ground floor.

Infinity Mirrored Room, a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display. A 45-second visit is enough to blow your senses out of the water.  It’s so unique as you’re the only one in the room. This installation finishes in October 2017.  At the same time a broader exhibition featuring Yayoi Kusama’s work is planned.

 

 

4.  Next door is the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.

It’s in amazing company.  For some philanthropic and art loving trivia, Eli Broad was the founding chairman and is a life trustee of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (which is across the road), he was a visionary behind the development of Grand Avenue (where The Broad is based), and he spearheaded the fundraising campaign to build the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall). Talk about an art over-achiever!

 

 

Pop in next door for a free tour while you’re in the area.

 

5.  The food is amazing

The food options in Downtown LA are varied and offers great choices for any budget.

 

Where to eat

My number one choice is for sure the signature restaurant as part of The Broad, The Otium. Even now as I type (and I’ve eaten, I’m not hungry) I am salivating. The menu is so fresh and the food so innovative, light but filling and totally satisfying. It’s designed to share and you are going to want to try as much as you can on the menu.

 

But, best of all the ambience is warm, inviting and homely–with a twist of funk courtesy of the decor and building.  And the service echoes the warm feeling: the staff is nothing but friendly, knowledgeable and everyone we spoke to were happy campers.

 

Just fabulous #otium #interiors #design #broad #dtla #downtownla #foodie #decor

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

A short walk from The Broad is the Grand Central Market, filled with hipsters and a solid selection of great food.

 

 

The food is good and varied. Try Horse Thief Barbecue or Eggslut and you can’t go wrong.

 

Address

Google Map: The Broad

Where is the Broad?

The Broad is on 221 S Grand Avenue in Downtown LA.

 

General admission is free but hop online and reserve timed admission tickets before you go. It doesn’t cost anything and saves you waiting in a queue. That general admission queue also doesn’t guarantee you get in and it’s still painfully long so just hop online.

 

How to get there

If you don’t have a car The Metro stops nearby. For more information on routes and fares click here.

 

If you’re like most Los Angelinos and public transport isn’t your thing there’s always Uber.  Or if you have a car because driving is more your thing (God knows why with this LA traffic) there’s parking right next door.  Be sure to validate your parking for discounted fees.  For more info on parking click here.

 

Where to stay

There are some great hotels in Downtown LA but I recommend staying in the more traditional LA hotspots, for example West Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica.  For more information on Beverly Hills Hotels see my series of articles.

 

People forget about art when they visit LA and Downtown often gets left off most people’s agendas.  But both are well worth including in your LA bucketlist.

 

For more pics of The Broad, visit my Facebook page and album.

 

This article was repurposed from an original I wrote on Cosmos Mariners Blog site a year ago. You can find the original story here. Thanks again Natalie for featuring me!  While you’re there check out Natalie’s other stories–she’s covered some amazing ground.
Only in LA: The day a famous actor knocked on our door to introduce himself as our new neighbour | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

The day a famous actor moved in next door

Moving to The Valley

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.

More screams.

“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.

Ah LA you never cease to amaze.

xx It Started in LA xx

Posts

Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA

Halloween makes way for Thanksgiving and Christmas … but in Australia November kicks off with Melbourne Cup Day: Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA

In one day here in LA the shops switch over from Halloween mode to “baking season” and, of course, “The Holidays” (as in Christmas, Hanukkah or Chanukkah).  The pumpkin farms make way for Christmas trees—or holiday trees and the three-month long holiday session moves up a gear.

Meanwhile … in Australia the first Tuesday of November is Melbourne Cup Day.  It’s the “horse race that stops a nation”.

It is by far my favourite day, so this week I thought I’d share with my American readers what Melbourne Cup Day is all about.  (I think it would make a great episode for my Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom).

To start, if you hadn’t already gathered, Melbourne Cup is a horse race.  As the name suggests it is run in Melbourne and if you live in Melbourne you have a DAY OFF work (that’s right, a public holiday for a horse race—don’t you love Australia?!).  If you live in Sydney, like I did, then you either host or attend a Melbourne Cup function of some kind.  Between my girlfriend and I we always hosted a lunch.

The rules of engagement are pretty clear.

Champagne

This is a rule.  You must serve and drink Champagne at a Cup Day function. The boys may drink beer from a bottle.

Hats

My theme was traditionally “hats and heels”.  A hat, fascinator and dress are also compulsory.  If you’re going to make an effort to dress up, today is the day.

Sweep

I don’t know if you do a “sweep” here in the US.  It’s basically where you put every horse racing into a cup and blindly draw names.  There are usually few sweeps at different price ranges—say $2, $5 and $10.  Then you work out the winnings according to winners for coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd; last place gets their money back.  So if you put in $30 to the $10 sweep, you can draw three horses.  The fun of it is you could draw a good horse—or you could draw a dud!

Lunch

Lunch is served to a group of ladies, given the blokes are working hard at work.  Even if you work, many of my working friends will try to get the day off so they can still join the festivities, they’re that important.

It is compulsory that the live telecast of the race be screened on your TV and everyone must critique the “fashion on the field”.  Remember this is the day to make your mark on the fashion so you’re opening yourself up for scrutiny—it is possibly more serious than the red carpet on the Oscars.

The race itself

Literally the race that stops the nation, everyone stops to watch the race.  Even if you’re not interested in horse racing for the rest of the year, everyone is captivated—and cheers for their horse to win.

Kicking on

Functions generally start at 12:00 and the race starts around 3:20.  School typically finishes at either 3:00 or 3:30 clearly interfering with the race.  So the kids get booked into After-school care (the busiest of the year!) and the Dads are on pick-up duty at 5:30.  The older kids get their own way home because this is Australia and they catch public transport.

IMPORTANT: Unlike LA the race being raced signals more partying, time to open another bottle of Champagne or turn the music on to start dancing.  It does not signal it is time to go home.

Then, when the kids and dads get home, the second leg of the function starts.  This is usually a smaller version of the lunch as only typically a few friends kick on. The dads chug down 50 beers to catch up to their wives and the kids are fed dinner.

At sometime around 9:00 or 10:00 everyone has had a truck load to drink and walks or cabs home.

Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA

This year I thought about doing a lunch on the Tuesday but it’s already Wednesday in Australia so it just wouldn’t work.  And, most people have to pick up their kids because there’s little to no public transport so I doubted it would work.

In a fit of desperation, I texted a couple of friends to see if they’d like to have a glass of Champagne with me after school.  I know, it’s a Monday night but it’s still Melbourne Cup Day!

Thankfully for me they answered my call and came over.  Then my Australian friends FaceTimed me from their lunch.  It was so cool that I got to introduce my friends to each other—not that anyone could hear what anyone was saying!  We posed for photos together and I got to watch the race with them.  The wonders of technology.  How fun.

Melbourne Cup Day in LA

Watching Melbourne Cup Day in Australia in LA | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

The day after the night before and life is back to normal once again.  And back in LA it’s finally cooling down meaning we might get to experience Fall rather than summer.  How novel!

Enjoy your week,

xx It Started in LA xx

Differences between America & Australia, Posts, Soapbox

My right to do what I want

It’s time for my weekly look at the differences between Americans and Australians.  This happened to me last night. I don’t think this would happen in Australia but I’d love to get some feedback from my Australian friends–or others who may have had a similar experience.

Am I looking at Australians through rose-coloured glasses? Is this being a bit harsh on Americans (not my friends though don’t you know)?  Or is it not a negative thing in a different context, with a different example?

Differences between Americans and Australians: my right to do what I want–you can’t make me

I’m sitting on the tarmac in Las Vegas airport on the last flight to Burbank (LA) and as we’re getting ready to pull back some smart arse starts talking back to the flight attendant.

While getting ready for the safety demonstration, the “hostie” asked him to please get off the phone as it was time to switch mobiles off.  Instead of wrapping up he kept talking.  She asked him again, quite patiently, to “please sir finish your call and switch off the phone.”  He kept talking, showing no signs of wrapping up his call.

Then minutes later when he was ready he said goodbye and switched off his phone. The hostie then reminded him that he must listen to her requests while on board the plane.

“I don’t have to listen to you, I turned off the phone before we took off, I can do whatever I want.”

Here we go.

She reminded him again that he needs to listen to their instruction and cautioned him.  With that she walks down the aisle to continue her checks.

He yells back again saying he can do whatever he wants.  (It’s his right).

The supervisor comes up the back to question him further.

“Excuse me sir are we going to have a problem on this flight?”

To which he says,

“No, she told me to turn the phone off, I got off the phone before the plane took off, she doesn’t have the right to tell me what to do.”

“Well sir, on board the flight you are required to follow our instruction so are we going to have a problem with that?”

“No, I did what she asked but if she asks me to pick my nose I’m not going to do that am I?’

“Well sir she is not going to ask you to do that.”

Blah, blah, blah on he goes about how he flies all the time and has never had a problem and how he’s going to write a letter to Southwest and how he’s already spent tens of thousands of dollars with them.

Then one guy ( who can fend for himself) stands up and says to the guy, “please stop talking, listen to them  so we can all go home”.

But Mr frequent-traveller-who-may-or-may-not-look-like-a-frequent-traveller is adamant he can say and do what he wants.

He is still rabbiting on about how he can do whatever he wants and his rights.

Meanwhile I sit back, three rows in front of him to the other side, and think, do I want to go home or do I want the plane to stop and get him off? My first thought is is he allowed to carry a gun? I’m guessing he’s not.  Or at least not a loaded one. Everyone is a cross between disbelief, sitting quietly hoping the issue will be resolved and looking back at him with intimidating stares begging him to pull his head in.

All he had to do was pull his head in.

I’m relieved when the plane stops and moves forward towards the gate. Now we’re sitting on the tarmac waiting.  The pilot asks us all to stay in our seats.  Is this going to turn ugly?  He must know something is going on.  Right?  How are those rights looking now mate?

Are we waiting for the cops to take him off the flight? Is he getting more ruffled sitting there knowing full well it’s because of a scene he caused?

So now I’m quietly anxious and nervous and text home an update. He didn’t pull his head in before why should he now? And as the minutes are counting down I’m thinking it’s obvious we’re waiting for someone to get him.  What on earth is he thinking?

Are we going to have an incident or are we waiting for him to cool down? But what if he’s waiting to cool down then when we get in the air he loses it?  Like my teenage girl when you think everything is ok, she remembers what happened then relives the anger.

The people in the row in front of me start talking about guns. Do you have one? What do you do? I couldn’t hear much of the conversation but I thought back about Lorie on Twitter and how she thinks if there’s a mass shooter there would only be two shots fired. What if the guy in front of me thinks he’s defending himself and fires a shot? Would he be a good shot and would the guy hurling abuse have a gun & shoot him or shoot the nearest person? What about stray bullets?

Would the guy with the bad attitude think it’s time to pull out his gun. And why am I thinking about who’s carrying a gun? Isn’t that what the strenuous security measures are there for?  But if you’re a psycho then could you get around the security measures?  Can I trust them? And why–if guns are a right and used for personal protection–are we not allowed to carry them on board a flight?

Am I going crazy?

Finally the doors were opened and two ground staff came to escort him off the flight.  I was so surprised to see two women and not security or police.

He was escorted off the flight in a bit of an anti-climax. Thank God. I was expecting a tantrum-like scene that would make my daughter look like an angel. He still didn’t really get it though. He was still playing the it’s-my-right power card and “you just can’t do that” to him.

Here’s the thing. In “the future” post October 21, 2015 (had to get a Back to The Future Day reference in there somewhere), post 9/11, post mass murder after mass murder you just can’t do that. You just can’t do that.

So we’re taking off half an hour later than scheduled but I feel safer. I started thinking about what would happen if we were in the air and he wouldn’t stop. Then what. Would we have to pull together and fight him down. Cause I would. I’d be amongst it. I’m not going down wondering.

So you see it’s not your usual “Difference between Americans and Australians” post.  The rest of the flight–filled with Americans–did not agree with this guy.

But engrained somewhere in many American’s psyche is that whole “my right to…” thing.  And it’s not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it’s used for good and not evil.  But I wonder if America and its taglines “living the dream” or “the land of the free” leads some of its citizens to believe that means they can do whatever the bloody hell they want.  Because it’s their god-given right.

And, by the way, dickheads are all over the world.

In Australia we have dickheads you can put up there on Wikipedia as the ultimate definition of a dickhead.

We have bogans that think they’re tough and give lip.  And in Australia I wouldn’t be scared of guns I’d be scared of the fighting–fists as weapons which do get through the security checks.  But I think in Australia we might be more worried about the consequences. I don’t think we’re prepared to take the chance that we might be black-banned from flying again–or at least for a long time. I don’t know.

That’s where you come in. What do you think? What would you do? Do you think a guy would talk back to–and continue to talk back to–a hostie and then a supervisor on a Qantas internal flight or Virgin flight?

When we landed I felt like doing American/Chinese style woo-hoos and clapping that I landed safely. What a bizarre situation. Come on Chuck Lorre we can make an episode out of this one. Let’s do it.

Meanwhile. I’m exhausted and signing off.  And weirdly, the kids didn’t know what had happened to me but when I came home they raced out of their rooms and welcomed me home with hugs and kisses. Yep, life is short … and too short to be a dickhead.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  My congratulations to the crew of the Southwest Airlines 845PM flight 143 from Las Vegas to Burbank who handled the situation with professionalism and putting our safety ahead of their schedules.

Behind-the-wheel test
Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Getting my Californian Licence—part two (behind-the-wheel)

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Getting my Californian Driver's Licence

I hope you haven’t been holding your breath waiting for “Getting my Californian Driving Licence—part 2 (behind-the-wheel)”.

Yes, they call it “behind-the-wheel” here and it’s the practical part of the licence process—the part that has “fail me” written all over it and the part I was putting off the most mainly because of the horror stories I’d heard. You know? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong?

About six months ago I embarked on the getting-my-licence journey thinking it would give my sitcom (actually Blog) a comedy boost. Sadly there is little to no comedic value in this post.  It’s not original and it’s just one of those stupid things in life there’s just no getting around.

One Sunday night a few weeks ago—while it was still school holidays—my husband got out his iPad and announced it was time to get my licence.  Where did that come from?

The overwhelming advice was don’t sit your licence in Hollywood, they’ll fail you.  OK.  It was suggested I go into the “Valley” to Winnetka.  The only available appointment in the foreseeable future was the very next day.

“I can’t do it tomorrow,” I said rather adamantly.

“Why not?”.

“Because,” knowing full well that’s a ridiculous response. “I need to drive around and get to know the area first. And we’ve got dentist appointments in the morning, how am I going to do two things in one day?” Useless … not getting any more convincing.

So, after checking around at alternative appointments and realising I’ve got no excuse, we made the appointment. I can do this.

I rounded up all my paperwork ready for the test. Because I was driving on a Learner’s Permit Mr H had to come with me.

(Only a year ago you could show your Australian licence and they’d give you a temporary licence provided you past the written test. Now you’re given a Learner’s Permit valid for one year).

Because you’re on a Learner’s Permit it technically requires a licenced driver to accompany you.  Given part of their checklist is you must be accompanied by a Licenced Driver, we weren’t about to test the DMV and have me front up alone only to be rejected.

Preparation for behind-the-wheel test

Next we collected up the rest of the paperwork I needed:

  • My Learner’s Permit
  • My Registration Papers (that are supposed to be kept in the car anyway)
  • Proof of insurance (that’s also supposed to be kept in the car)
  • i94 & Passport.

(Side-bar: While I needed my i94 and Passport they didn’t ask for my son’s when he got his licence at 16. It may have something to do with the fact that it’s a brand new licence but not sure at this stage. He passed his test and is now driving so all must be OK).

And look up my hand signals. (That’s right, for some antiquated reason you need to know hand signals for left, right and stop).

OK, check, check, check.

We rocked up to the Winnetka DMV.  You’re asked to park in the carpark, check in and then drive up to the testing area when “instructed to do so”.

Like every other DMV in LA it’s packed. I don’t know why this is. There’s always a queue out the front and there are always hordes of people inside.  And it’s always always always chaotic. This DMV is not unlike the Hollywood DMV I described in Part one of this story.

I had to go inside past the outside queue (and funny looks) and then past another inside queue that was marked for appointments and head over to the far side (not dissimilar to the far queue) where there was a separate queue for driver’s licence appointments.

I’m glad Mr H asked as it wasn’t obvious when we arrived and there are so many people around, you feel like you need to start queuing outside before you make your way in. Without deliberately offending my host country it feels like I’m walking into a government department in the Philippines.

We were early but unfortunately they were checking us in in appointment time order so that wasn’t much use to us. And, they were running late.

We checked the paperwork list on the desk matched the paperwork we’d brought in with us.  All good.  Oh, except the insurance papers.  They were expired.  We’d been automatically renewed but we mustn’t have printed out the renewal and now we’re standing there looking at expired insurance.

Ok, we can log in and show that our insurance was actually current.  But now we’re at the mercy of DMV—and whether the people behind the counters are sticklers for the rules or reasonable.  You never want to be at the mercy of the DMV so who knows how this will play out.

We started playing out the different scenarios.

“Oh, is it expired? I didn’t realise. I can look it up online to prove it’s not.” Possible.

“Would you be able to print our proof of insurance out for us?” Doubtful.

“We’ve just realised the paperwork is out of date but here it is online to prove it’s current.” Yep, always go with the truth.

There was a nice girl at the desk so we’ll take our chances.

Oh wait, the nice girl goes on break. The one that takes over seems a bit grumpy. Great.

We wait some more. I’ve got Mr H there, slightly dodgy paperwork and a car to sit the test in so I’m just at the mercy of the chick behind the counter as to whether she accepts the insurance certificate and then that of the driving tester.

They call our timeslot and as if it’s meant to be the nice girl comes back. “No problems.” she says as she takes my learner’s permit and registration and hands me back my proof of insurance and asks me to sit down and wait for my name to be called.

I’ll spare you the muzak on hold music and the obligatory … 30 minutes later to give the idea of the length of time this is taking …

(Ok I didn’t but I could have).

I’m up! My name is called and Mr H and I go to my car. I’m driving, he’s in the passenger seat. I was asked to put my paperwork on the right dashboard so I did.

It’s taking a bloody long time to drive to what is essentially a drive-through minus the bottleshop or Maccas ordering window. There’s a hold up in front of us. Two lots of people get out of their cars. Oops. As we’re creeping forward a clearly nervous 16-year-old hits the people in front of her, who are just in front of us. They exchange paperwork we chuckle at the irony and wonder if she’s automatically failed or given a lifeline. There’s a security guard there facilitating the exchange but none of the testers so maybe she’s good to go.

(She was good to go but came back some five minutes later failing anyway).

Time to run through my hand signals one more time.

Taking the behind-the-wheel test: we’re on

I’m up. The tester takes my paperwork and Mr H is free to get out of the car. Then she starts asking me questions.

  • Where’s your foot brake? Put your foot on it (and she checks my brake lights)
  • Right indicator (oops I’ve done the windscreen wipers, try again, got it).
  • Left indicator
  • Checks my tyres
  • Asks me to do my handsignals and say what they are.

Next she hops in the car and asks some more things saying point don’t touch.

  • Emergency or foot brake (parking brake)
  • Horn
  • Emergency flasher
  • Headlights
  • Defroster (rear & front demist)
  • Headlights.

We’re off. I had nightmares for two years about exiting the driveway and turning too close and running over the gutter but all good. I turned right into a street, stopped at a traffic light and turned right again. She asked me to pull over then reverse. Then she asked me to pull out again. The silence in the car is killing me. I hate awkward silence. I turned left into a street and left into another one. I was near the DMV I could feel it in my bones I was home and hosed.

Keep going straight. What??? Aren’t I done? Left. Right. Left. Left. We were getting further away. Was she willing me to make more mistakes? This is becoming a competition now. I wasn’t going to fail after all this. I passed mini test after mini test she was giving me. I had to turn left into a street but the cars were banked up past the turning lane left so I dutifully waited behind the cars. (You know when you’ve got your licence you just cross the wrong side of the road so you can join the turning lane so you catch the lights?) Two cars overtook me and I laughed awkwardly. She was impressed I could tell. I could sense we were heading back.

“Left,” she said. There was a pedestrian crossing yet I was free to go. I had heard that the pedestrian had to fully cross the road before you could go. What do I do? Do I go? Wait? I’m going to fail on my way back to the DMV. I went but turned wide when the pedestrian was crossing on the other side of the traffic. I’ve failed. Keep calm she would’ve asked you to pull over by now.

I pulled into the DMV. As far as I could see I was perfect: I stopped ahead of the lanes, I used my mirrors all the time (as in checked them remembering when I was 18 and sat my test in Melbourne and passed on the first go) and I didn’t speed.  That damn pedestrian.

“You can have 15 errors,” she started. Great. No way, I couldn’t have failed.

“You made 11 errors.” I passed. Yay me. Wait, what 11 errors?

“You must take care not to turn too wide,” she said. Oh yeah, I’m lucky I made the right call there I’ll take that one.  “Awkward giggle, oh yes I know where I did that,” I said out loud.

“You must always look both ways.” But I did, I did. I looked in my mirrors I looked everywhere.

I nodded as if to agree. Who cares? I passed.

“Go inside, give them this and you can collect your licence.” No congratulations? No well done?

“Ok. Thanks.”

I went to the desk and said to the girl (a different girl at a different desk). “I passed. Just.”

“Oh,” she said looking at my paperwork.  Then, looking at the girl next to her she said, “She got you-know-who guess how many errors she made. She passed.”

“14,” says the girl next to her.

“11,” she laughs back at her.

“Oh you’re good girl,” said the girl looking up at me then and the girl next to her and continues serving the person at her desk.

“She’s tough that one.  Let’s put it like this.  I’ll get in the car with you any time.”

Only then did I breathe a sigh of relief.

I’m a licenced Californian driver. I had to sit a written test then (endure) a behind-the-wheel test and I live to tell the tale. Not only that I passed.  With the toughest tester in Winnetka.

Could you pass a behind-the-wheel test if you had to resit it today? How did you go? I’m just glad this little obstacle is done and dusted.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: For more information on applying for your California Driver’s Licence head here.

My take on the 2015 Emmys Telecast
Celebrity, Movies and TV, My LA story, Posts

My round up of the Emmys 2015 telecast

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Emmys 2015

I love the Emmys and I love TV. So it’s only fitting that I share my round up of the Emmys 2015 telecast. Last year I was lucky enough to go to the Creative Arts Emmys. As is the premise of my Blog, never in my wildest dreams as a very happy normal chick living the Sydney life expect to be strutting the Red Carpet amongst the cast of Orange is the New Black, Jon Voight and incredible talent that makes the TV industry go around. It’s crazy.

This year’s Emmys ceremony was great, I thoroughly enjoyed them and I love that it’s broken down over two separate ceremonies. It makes the main event go much quicker.

While I enjoyed most of Andy Sandberg as this year’s host can I am still mourning the loss of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It will take a few more years til we get to their standard—if we do at all. They’re some pretty talented and funny women.

Andy opened strongly but it was a bit stop/start. His opening monologue was fine but not great.

It took a while to hit cruising speed but he definitely got more comfortable and relaxed as time went on, which is good.

To me, cruising speed was hit when he did his little “Girls” love scene impersonation—which is pretty funny even if you didn’t know the scene in question.

ICYMI here it is.

Important role of TV

 

The Oscars last year got slammed for “snubbing people of colour” but the Emmys did the opposite. I’m not sure it’s that the Emmys addressed or acknowledged people of colour but had the opportunity to award talent where it was due.

No one put it better than Viola Davis herself:

“The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy (or an Oscar) for roles that are simply not there.”

There have been many people commenting on social media saying, You won, you’re good, you deserve it but enough about the colour factor. Sorry, you can’t say that! Clearly to say what she said, to speak as openly and emotionally as she did, Viola Davis has been on a ride. Otherwise it wouldn’t be so from-the-heart as it was.

I also understand why they say “it shouldn’t be about colour”. BUT. America is very into defining people—men, women, black, Asian, native American, gay, straight, transgender and talking about Diversity. By labelling people America is its own worst enemy. It struck me almost as soon as I got here and I penned (so to speak) this post.

(And I’m not saying Australia is not guilty, we’ve had our own racist issues, which also embarrass me, but it comes from a different angle).

Maybe it’s easy for me to say but at the end of the day—when you look really closely—I’m not white middle America, I just act like I am. “White” that is. Clearly I’m not American (although I do see myself as evolving into an Ausmerican).

I act like I am white because I don’t see myself any differently. And I think that’s largely because I grew up in Australia, not America. I’m probably not really making a lot of sense but here’s the bottom line:

Shonda Rhimes, is a creative genius. Beyond genius. She’s like the Steven Bochco of the 2000s (am I showing my age?). When I first saw Grey’s Anatomy in Australia, I knew it was created by Shonda Rhimes but I had no idea she was black. It didn’t matter, why should it? When I first saw the shorts (trailer) for How To Get Away with Murder I saw a powerful performance by Viola Davis but I didn’t take special notice of the fact that she was black, she was just bloody amazing.

That should be the point. And (I think) that was Viola Davis’s point.

TV should be at the cutting edge of setting change. TV Shows have a shorter incubation period, cost less to make, and there is a large talent pool to choose from. And that’s why we love it so much and that’s why it’s so much edgier than movie-making at the moment.

And, the fact that every single drama nominated could clearly be the winner exemplifies that point.  And that every single comedy nominated could clearly be the winner. No one drama or comedy would have won that category and you would have said, “I don’t think they deserved it”.

I was like, “oh yeah, Game of Thrones deserves it.” Then I remember House of Cards and what an amazing season it was.  Downton Abbey, Homeland, OISTNB … Yep, they’re all over-the-top phenomenally good.

Donald Trump

On a lighter note it was good to see the Trump jokes out in force last night. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her acceptance speech:

“What a great honour it must be for you to honour me tonight.

“Oh God, no! Donald Trump said that.”

On that note, shall we take a moment to say the women, to me, are rocking it as the stars of the show. The cast of Orange is the New Black, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, JLD, Allison Janney, all the American Horror Story stars and guest stars. Good for them I say—now to get them all being paid the same as the blokes in the room ;-).

And, I wonder if we can now get Kanye to throw himself at Amy Schumer when he sees her on the Red Carpet.

 

All hail Amy Schumer.

For a full list of nominees and winners click here.

 

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Santorini
Posts, Travelog

Santorini truly is a gift from the Gods

“Ahhh Santorini, you truly are a gift from the Gods.”

We crowd around the bus as it pulls into the local bus stop, all eager to get a seat as it’s a decent drive back to Oia (where we’re staying) from Fira, one of the centres for food, shopping and nightlife on Santorini.

It turns out it’s not our bus. Masses pile onboard—that’s why they crowd around. The bus is full. Another bus pulls in and the bus driver takes no mercy on the waiting crowds. The driver “hits” a local customer infuriated by the driver’s actions. He starts yelling at the driver who ignores him. He knew he was nowhere near the guy but the guy continues to yell abuse at him. Twenty minutes later as he left in search of a taxi—and as the bus pulls out on another trip—he’s still yelling.

Our bus arrives and, after surveying how it’s done on the Greek Islands, we get pole position in front of the queue and politely wait for those to get off before we push our way in.

We depart with little time to spare driving up a steep hill. I was sure the sign said do not enter. Who cares, this is Santorini in the Greek Islands and this is a big bus.

A car was in our bus’s way and our driver yells at someone out his window, one of the words being “malaka” and my childhood memories of growing up with first-generation Greek kids in Melbourne came flooding back to me. Why is it always the swear words we pick up when we learn another language?

We stopped for a long time as the cars were coming head on towards us. I don’t think this is working. The bus driver lights up a cigarette, the conductor does the same.

The bus driver starts yelling out the window presumably for the cars to get the flock out of his way.

“Spiro,” he starts in lively Greek addressing the conductor. I’m assuming he’s telling Spiro he needs to get out of the bus and tell the cars up ahead to get out of his way and let him through based on his hand gestures and the situation in front of us.

He sits back, swears again and waits.

Spiro was not having a bar of it as he too sits back taking a drag of his cigarette.

The driver starts again at Spiro. With this Spiro assesses the situation, gets out of the bus and heads up the road to stop the traffic, cursing the fact that he’s subjected to this well after midnight.

 

We advance a couple of hundred metres and come to another dead stop. More lively Greek comes out of the bus driver’s mouth and Spiro chimes in.

The name Spiro also conjures up memories of my childhood in Melbourne–one of the highest Greek populations in the world outside Athens. The guy that owned the local bottle shop’s name was Spiro. I’m not sure what the name of the shop actually was but Dad and his mates always called it Spiro’s. Spiro looked after the alcohol for every single party my parents, and their friends, threw and every Saturday, like a trip to the butcher Mr Thomas, Dad would pop in to say hi to Spiro.  Long before Vintage Cellars or Dan Murphy.

The driver hops on the radio. More lively Greek. Is this the usual bus route? Spiro and the driver seem somewhat surprised by tonight’s traffic like it has never been like this before but this is Fira in the height of summer—it’s busy every night. Isn’t it? The driver and Spiro light up a cigarette contemplating the situation ahead of them. We wait another 10-15 minutes as we watch the driver and Spiro decide what to do next.

“Get on the radio,” I imagine the driver says to Spiro as he hands him the radio talking in more lively greek. “I’ve already spoken to them they’ve done nothing to help.” I can’t imagine what the depot could do to help but I can’t imagine why they’re calling in on the radio either, perhaps to tell them they’re not moving and get them to share in their pain. I wish my old friends were here to translate. I’d love to know what they were saying.

Spiro gets off the radio and lights another cigarette standing at the front of the bus staring at the cars lined up head on like we’re playing chicken, albeit stationary.  This time nobody can move. The driver tells Spiro to get out of the bus and stop the cars once again and once again Spiro talks back but reluctantly get out of the bus some five minutes later stopping the traffic like he’s never had to do it before.

The traffic dutifully stops but clearly not a second before someone “asks nicely”. It was third time lucky and with that we’re on our way. And that was the last time Spiro had to get out of the bus to stop the traffic. On this trip anyway.

 

Such is the joy of travelling: sitting in the front of the bus watching the adventures of Spiro and the driver put me in good stead to enjoy the holiday.

“There’s a reason Santorini is continually voted one of the best island paradises in the world.”

We arrived in Santorini on July 18 (2015 for the archives) and the referendum resulting in an overwhelming “no” vote yet somehow Greece negotiated a further bail out and further austerity measures. There are no queues at the ATM in Santorini however, credit cards continue to be accepted and it’s business as usual in this glorious part of the world.

In Santorini the travel brochures aren’t having you on. It is exactly as it looks: white, serene, picturesque views and an endless vision of deep blue sea and matching blue rooftops coupled with breathtakingly spectacular cliffs and volcanic mountains.

 

It’s busy but not in a “I-can’t-be-bothered-leaving-my-pool” way, just in a way that makes you happy the negativity in the media hasn’t kept the tourists away.

Where we stayed

Filotera Suites

Family run boutique hotel built into the caldera. The hospitality is “Greek family”, in other words you are a welcome visitor but you don’t have to get up and offer to do the dishes or cook a meal while you’re there. Nothing is too much trouble and the attentiveness is genuine; it’s as good as it gets.

 

The attention to detail is tremendous—your tealight candles get lit before sunset every night and there is a turndown service.

I've had a few people saying no more sunshine pics because they're freezing in Oz. Here's one. Because I'm so obliging ☀️

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Breakfast is served every morning on your private porch with a choice of Continental, Greek or Honeymoon style and extras like bacon, eggs or meats and cheeses. My favourite sound of the day was the clinking of the crockery and cutlery—our sign that breakfast was being set up and it was time to get ourselves up to start our strenuous day poolside.

 

And, because we spent so much time around our room—we had a private room—we got to see just how well our rooms are cleaned. Each day our room was cleaned as if we were new guests coming in, not just any old guests but Greek Gods.

With only eight rooms staying at Filotera Suites really knows how to spoil its guests.

 

Where we ate

Argos, Fira

A great restaurant in the heart of Fira’s action with an extensive menu and great food and ambience.

 

Petros, Oia

With a sunset deck it has a spectacular view of the famous Oia sunset. Our hotel booked us the best table in the house. Great food to match–and satisfied my fussy daughter’s tastes so got to be happy with that!

Ambrosia, Oia

Recommended by Australian Gourmet Traveller, and a friend, Ambrosia is a little bit more special than the other restaurants. It’s small and quaint, has a small yet enticing menu and the waiters are top notch. Ask for a table outside. While the inside tables have plenty of character we felt a little warm and claustrophobic.

 

Sunset Cruise with Santorini Yachting Company

While we were happy chilling by our pool and wandering the cobblestone streets of Oia we also decided a sunset cruise was in order. With a couple of different stops—including the hot springs and Red Beach—it was an afternoon well spent. The grand finale of the famous Santorini sunset would have been enough to satisfy us anyway—the only thing missing was a glass of Champagne.

 

Santorini frequently makes the top five island destinations to visit in the world. And there’s a reason. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful but it’s mystical and magical. Best of all there are accommodation and restaurant offerings for all budgets—there’s no discrimination in Santorini.

And, at a time where Greece could use your money, there should be no putting off a visit to Santorini.

xx It Started in LA xx

Differences between America & Australia, Posts

Corner stores or no corner stores?

The difference between my life in Beverly Hills America & inner City Sydney Australia

The second instalment in my series in the differences between America & Australia (Americans & Australians) was spurred on by a recent end-of-year sleepover. With five teenage boys in the house the breakfast request was for pancakes.

“Damn, I don’t have eggs,” I said.

In Australia …

I would have sent the boys on their bikes or skateboards down the local corner shop to get said eggs. The boys would have got dressed and practically run out the door.

“Don’t forget to take the dog,” I’d yell at them, at which they’d promptly run back, grab the dog and the lead and continue racing out the door.

Some later they’d come home with eggs (and anything else I’d requested) and a treat for themselves. As payment. Works for them, works for me.

In America …

We live in the hills of Beverly Hills—down one hill is Beverly Hills “flats” (think the mansions and palm trees) and down the other hills is the “posh” part of the Valley, Sherman Oaks.

To “rush out” just to get eggs I need to hop in the car. (Yes it’s LA, everyone drives everywhere.) There’s no corner store to walk to. I have to go down one of my two hills to the closest “market” (which makes it sound really glamorous but it’s really just American for supermarket).

It’s not too bad, a drive down the hill to Sherman Oaks is around 10 minutes (out of traffic). Except couple that with the fact that you have to park, go in, get the eggs (it’s a big supermarket and the eggs are in the far back corner—good to know if you’re in Ralph’s Sherman Oaks and all you need is eggs), get back in the car and head back up the hill. That’s 30 minutes of my life I can’t get back all because I don’t have enough eggs. Yes, yes, I know I could have given them something else but it’s the holidays and they worked really hard to stay up all night what’s a sleepover without pancakes for breakfast???

I hate the fact that there is no corner store or local “market”. We had one at our local shopping centre it closed down now long after we got here. And even then I can’t send the kids there to go on their bikes, I still have to drive.

Flashback to Shanghai

In Shanghai our apartment was across the road from the international supermarket, CitiShop. The kids were a little too young to send over at the start but towards the end they could go themselves. Plus I didn’t have to get in my car and they had all the treats (like Tim Tams) I needed if I was feeling homesick. I just couldn’t look at the price.

I may be greeted with a smile and helpful “checkout chicks” here in the US but the kids going to the corner shop for me. Priceless.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t fess up to the fact that our corner store shut down shop since we left home.  BUT there is another shop a little further down the road I can still send the kids to AND there’s a new mini Grocer (IGA) that’s opened close by that I can also send the kids to. Do yourselves a favour and support the local corner store, before you need to hop in the car to get bread and milk.  Or eggs, don’t forget the eggs.

LA Restaurants, Posts

The Church Key

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People complain about coming to the US and getting sick of eating hamburgers, hot dogs, salads with mayo all over them and fries, fries, fries. That’s not America’s fault people: it’s yours. You can’t use that excuse here in LA. The only excuse you have is ignorance—of not knowing where to go. But thanks to Google and blogs like mine you can find great restaurants to eat and with a bit of planning ahead of time you can check out some of LA’s great dining spots.

(Don’t forget to tip between 18-20% though—10% or rounding up the bill doesn’t cut it here! Blog post to follow).

Let’s start with the fabulously located The Church Key.

The Church Key… Just ✋. 😍 #canthandlethecute #thechurchkey #latergram #bestdonutsever @thechurchkeyla

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The bar. Love it @thechurchkeyla #thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #aussiebloggerinla #aussiebloggerinla #Itstartedinla

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It’s on W Sunset in West Hollywood right amongst some of the popular hotels.

Firstly you’ll thank me the minute you walk in as the décor is LA hip. You can enjoy cocktails at the bar and take advantage of the tapas/dim sum-style carts that wheel around specials with anything from tuna to mini shepherd’s pies and samosas to popcorn to deep-fried & breaded bacon!!! (I know sounds kinda too much but nothing in this place was terrible so I imagine it was anything but, still we weren’t game to try!).

Last one I promise! I want one of these drinks carts @thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #Itstartedinla #aussiebloggerinla #thechurchkeyla

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The menu is a sharing one—my preference to get a little taste of everything and not forced to pick just one thing. We sampled:

AGED CHEDDAR FONDUE—Asparagus, Artichokes & Carrots / Pretzel Twist

AHI TUNA TARTARE—Apricot / Greek Yogurt / Pistachios / Serrano Chili / Pappadam

BRUSSELS SPROUT “CAESAR SALAD”—Tomato Raisins / Sunflower Seeds / Parmesan Cheese

RICOTTA GNUDI—Corn Espuma / Parmesan / Brown Butter / Chives (my personal fave)

 

JIDORI CHICKEN “TIKKA MASALA”—Dehydrated Mango / Cilantro Raita / Basmati Rice

And next time I’m going to try (just don’t know what I’m going to swap for):

ENGLISH PEA “HUMMUS”—Vadouvan / Cherry Tomatoes / Grilled Paneer / Garlic Chips / Nigella Naan

OSOSKY’S POTATO PIEROGIES–Peach Butter / Aged Gouda / Crème Fraîche / Chives & the

CRISPY PORK BELLY—Gochujang Glaze / Cashew Butter / Radish / Pea Shoots / Cilantro / Sesame

RIGATONI PASTA—Fennel Sausage / ”Red Sauce” / New Olive Oil / Parmesan Espuma

TAPIOCA CRUSTED TAI SNAPPER–Broccoli Rabe / Sushi Rice Cake / White Soy Vinaigrette

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

 

Be sure to make it to the toilets as there are a few photo opps!

I lied. A couple more for the blog. Link in bio 🍷😍🍸#thechurchkeyla #lafoodie #ladining #livingthedream #myreality #weho #aussieexpat

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So next time you’re in LA eat somewhere nice! Here’s the website for more info & to make a booking.

I look forward to the thank-yous in the comments ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: For more LA Dining suggestions visit my Pinterest page.

Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Returning things (taking stuff back)

The difference between Americans & Australians

I’m starting a new series of differences between Australians & Americans prompted by today’s shopping experience. I’m not talking spelling or speaking but reactions and situations. Join in if you’ve got a story to tell.

Returns Bloomingdale’s style

I bought some candles for a friend whose birthday is coming up. I ordered them online (of course) and opted to pick them up in store because I wouldn’t receive them in time for her birthday dinner.

Cut to the chase I got the candles home and my daughter was snooping in the bag (she is obsessed with candles AND snooping!).

“Ew,” she screamed. “This candle has been lit.”

And sure enough it had. No sign of real lighting action but that wick was not white (or clear) it was black.

So I headed straight back to Bloomingdale’s the next morning so they didn’t suspect me of being the mysterious candle-lighter.

“Oh my god,” said the checkout chick (who is actually a bloke but then I couldn’t use the term ”checkout chick”), “that’s terrible. Ew. Let’s get you another one shall we?”

So off we went looking for the same product—but one that hadn’t been lit. Each time he passed someone who worked at the store he’d call out, “Hey Larry—or whatever their name was—look this poor lady got sent a candle that had been … (gasp) lit.”

“No way,” they’d reply in shock.  “That’s terrible.”

It took us a while to find the same product but he looked up the stock and knew there were some somewhere. So off he went digging out the back to try to find more. And he did. And he sent me away a happy—albeit still shell-shocked—customer.

 

Returns Australia style

Let’s imagine how this might play out in Australia…

Me: “Hi, I bought these candles online and picked them up here yesterday but one of the candles seems to have been lit.”

Checkout chick (CC): “Oh,” glaring at me sizing me up to see if I hadn’t in fact lit the candle myself. “Do you have the receipt.”

Me: “Yes,” showing her the receipt.

CC: “And when did you say you bought them? Where from?

Me: Politely answer the question.

CC: “I’ll have to speak to someone about this, wait one minute please,” while walking up and whispering to her colleague both looking at me making me feel guilty like I deliberately lit that candle and took it back wanting a new one.

“OK, mam, this is an unusual situation. We won’t give you your money back we can only exchange and since the candle has already been lit then we can only exchange it for exactly the same product.”

Me: “Well that’s good because I want the candle, I got it home and found that it had been lit and it’s a gift and I really want to give them a brand new one, not one that’s been lit by someone else.

“Do you have anymore in stock? I couldn’t find them anywhere.”

CC: “I’m not sure you’ll have to look around and see if you can find another one.”

Me: “I’ve had a look around but can’t seem to see any. I only bought them online yesterday there should be more here somewhere shouldn’t there?”

CC: “You’ll have to wait while I serve this customer and maybe I can check stock for you. Or you might go back online and see if you can find some more.”

You get the picture? I love shopping here and not being treated guilty before being proved innocent. Plus the prices are better and it’s so convenient online!

 

xx It Started in LA xx

 

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