Category Archives: The LA Years

That Time Mark Wahlberg Kissed Me Goodnight

It was 106 degrees yesterday and Garrett was home covered up in blankets and piles of kleenex feeling sick as a dog. Super duper YUCK. Isn’t summer the worst time to have a bad cold? He was feeling pretty sorry for himself yesterday so I spent the afternoon manning the station at Man Cold Central, doing some work at home and finishing some organizing projects. While I was cleaning out the closet in our front bedroom I came across a giant tub of old photographs which led me to the realization that digital photography is the only reason I did not end up on Hoarders.


I have SO MANY old useless pictures. Would you like 100+ dark and blurry pictures of the Joey McIntyre concert I attended in 2002? No sweat, I gotcha covered! And don’t worry, I have THE NEGATIVES too in case we need to reprint the batch. I mean, I must have had to CHANGE THE FILM IN MY CAMERA MORE THAN ONCE. So glad I meticulously documented that night out! 🙂

In the end though, there were some hilarious old photos too, so I busted out a few so Garrett could have a laugh while feeling like death on the couch. His personal favorite of old dorky pictures of me is still this one that now hangs on our fridge:


Yes, I do have a license for those finger guns, why do you ask?

Also, random aside, this was the era of my dance career where I was constantly being told how fat I was. This was the year when I first started Weight Watchers. Seriously? WHAT THE FUCK EVER.

Anyway, I posted that to Instagram ages ago and some of you got a chuckle over it, so why not post it here for more of you to point and laugh. Anything for you! I also posted this next photo to Instagram last night and a few of you asked for the story behind it so I’ll give ya the (long winded, apparently) cliffs notes.
Fun pic from the archives...and yes my tongue is pierced. It was the cool 1990s suburban girl thing to do. Haaaaaa!

First let’s talk about the obvious: my tongue is pierced in this picture and I look ridiculous. I pierced it when I was 18 and left it in on and off for about 5 years. My family hated it. I loved it. I guess I’m just glad I did that instead of getting that super meaningful tramp stamp of the Chinese Symbol for Whatever It Was That Was Cool in 1999. Bullet: Dodged.

Anyway, the other obvious thing: that’s Mark Wahlberg on the left. Maybe less obvious, for those who didn’t have a super psycho 90s obsession with Third Eye Blind, on the right that is Stephan Jenkins. Do you know why I loved him? (I mean, aside from the fact that moody looking dark haired gentleman are totally my type. duh.) Because he was a “smart” stoner (Valedictorian at UC Berkeley. And um, decidedly NOT sober in that picture.) Listen, I was 22. I was not the arbiter of good taste in men at the time. So.

It was 1999, I was living on the westside of Los Angeles, my life was kind of a mess and my roommate and I had gone out that night to The Key Club for some sort of benefit for Breast Cancer, I think. It had some kind of cheeky name involving boobs, but all we cared about was that Stephan Jenkins was headlining the event solo. My roommate at the time may have loved him just a smidge more than I did, if possible, so we showed up and decided that Operation: Get Backstage was in full effect.

Obviously we did what any self respecting determined young ladies do when they want to get backstage, and we chatted up the bouncer. Well, at least my roommate did. As you can see from the photo I was wearing a button up shirt. I mean…had I just come from my day job? (I was working as a PA at Extra at the time. Sadly it was Pre-Mario Lopez. But I was a career woman, nonetheless. HA!) WHAT WAS THE BUTTON UP SHIRT ABOUT? So yeah, I’ve just never been that girl who is oozing with sensuality and can sweet talk bouncers. I am more of a seducer with my awkward. I was the loud chick with her tongue pierced who sends her desperate-to-be-slutty roommate to do that. MUAHAHAHAHA.


He let us back there for some reason and so we decided to hang out in the absolutely empty green room which was indeed green and filled with All Of The Heineken. Also some shitty cheese tray, and a Coscto sized box of altoids. I guess the condoms were hidden somewhere. It was skeezy. We immediately realized though that everyone who was wandering around backstage had these “All Access” Bracelets on. We had no bracelets. Hmmm…but we were smart girls so we got the bright idea that we would just sit on stools outside the green room and “check people’s bracelets” as they walked by and look very official until our boyfriend Stephan showed up. And dude it totally worked! Everyone seemed to think it was business as usual. Must have been my very official button up shirt.

Then we realized that the reason that it was empty in the green room was because there was a VIP bar down at the basement level. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH, ok. So we headed down there because we heard Stephan was “IN THE BUILDING.” Squeee! He totally was! And without Charlize, which you know, was essential. Because obviously it gave us waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better chances of all running away together if his OSCAR WINNING SUPERMODEL GIRLFRIEND wasn’t there. Makes sense. Out of sight out of mind, I’m sure. Whew!

So he’s down there, but we can’t *actually* talk to him because that requires using words and in that moment I think we could only just look at each other wide eyed and squealing under our breath. So we decided to head back upstairs to get it together. Back to the green room we go, where we have to put our Bracelet Checking Identities back on. As we’re sitting on our stools Duncan Sheik shows up (he was also performing that night) and immediately asks “Oh do you need to see my bracelet” Um…duh, Duncan. Get with the program. So he does and heads into the green room for some…altoids? Cheese? I don’t know. But since he is there all alone we decide to chat it up with him and crack open a beer.

“Are you allowed to drink while you are working?” he says, “That’s cool.”

So now that we are all 3 BFFs we confess to Duncan that we, in fact are dumb groupie chicks dying to meet Stephan and right as we do this Stephan comes in the green room for some…altoids? I don’t know. BUT THERE HE IS. And luckily my roommate has some sort of ability to talk normal to him. I think I was buttoning my shirt or adjusting my choker or something, but he tells us he’s about to perform and we should watch him from the side of the stage. We ask him to play our favorite song. HE TOTALLY OPENS THE SHOW WITH IT.

As we are sitting at the side of stage being absolute fucking idiots, we realize that the gentleman in front of us is MARK FUCKING WAHLBERG. And then I die, obviously, because I am one degree of separation from Donnie. He was rolling incognito that night with a hat and beard (later I’d find out he was filming The Perfect Storm at the time) and so it took a minute. But we ended up finding out that he had just finished making a movie with Charlize Theron and so obvs, they must all now be super Hollywood BFFs and we were going to find a way infiltrate this circle with our coolness, if only to wedge Charlize out of the picture. Duh. PIECE OF CAKE.

When the show finished, Stephan came off stage, hugged Mark and they both headed up the stairs, past the green room to a SECRET GREENROOM that was outside in some random refurbished bus situation with some bodyguard-esque dude. We totally followed. And spent the rest of the evening shooting the shit in a bus with Mark Wahlberg, Stephan Jenkins, and some bodyguard that totally thought we were sluts. Newsflash: WE WERE NOT. Again, I WAS WEARING A BUTTON UP SHIRT. I didn’t even know from slutty, sorry. Well, let’s be real, I’m not sorry. But the night wound down and they were going to go over The Viper Room and did we want to come along?


But my roommate was only 20 at the time. The show was an 18 and over show. AN 18 AND OVER SHOW, YOU GUYS. THIS ENTIRE TIME. I mean, what?????????? We were so lame. So we had to say goodnight, and as such there were lots of hugs and goodnight kisses and photographs taken by bouncer dudes that thought we were sluts, and one of those kisses from MARKY-EFFING-MARK landed right around my lip area, mostly because he was wasted, not because he was trying to put the moves on me. Maybe he was actually just trying to get a better look at my awesome choker.

But from that point on it became That Time Mark Wahlberg Kissed Me Goodnight. That has such a better ring to it than dorky, desperate groupie chicks stalk Hollywood dudes and watch them smoke weed in a bus, right?

Better SEO too, I’m sure. 🙂

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Alphabet: A History – (B) Brentwood

This is a series of autobiographical vignettes inspired by Dear Wendy’s series of the same name. The idea is loosely based on Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

All of my stories can be found here.

It’s 1995 and I am about to turn 17 years old. My parents have binders full of SAT information, transcripts and college brochures that they spend their evenings painstakingly organizing after putting in long days running their own business. We are about to embark on a week long trip to tour colleges in southern California. The thought of college paralyzes me.

I am mired in the day to day of my friends, of boys, of high school in general. All of that is already enough. I don’t do my own dishes or cook my own dinner. I have a job and a car payment but I am hardly independent. I avoid thinking about the next stage of my life at every opportunity. I want it all to stay the same so badly — I want to hit the pause button on my life. I want to scream, “WAIT! I’M NOT READY!” But the universe has other plans. The next three years of my life will be full of change. So much change, in fact, that the current life that I am dying to hold on to will almost become unrecognizable at the end. But I don’t know this, and I wait for the next step to unfold.

We pack up the family Suburban — The Urban Assault Vehicle, as my dad calls it — and we head down to Los Angeles. It is sprawling and I hate it. Too much traffic, too many people, too much asphalt. I feel a lump of panic bubble up in my throat just sitting on the 405. I don’t know where I want to end up but I know this isn’t it. Unsurprisingly, I hate UCLA. “It feels like a concrete jungle” I tell my parents. But before we leave Los Angeles we *HAVE* to drive through Brentwood. This is 1995 and my mom has spent the entire summer glued to the television watching every detail of the OJ Simpson trial unfold. She can map out all the streets and routes, she knows the time lines and the key players. She needs to see it in person instead of through the filter of Court TV.

The 10 year old Urban Assault vehicle has no hope of being incognito next to the luxury cars parked in the garages of Rockingham Avenue, and my mom with her camcorder pointed out the front seat window does nothing to help detract from our tourist vibe. Even though I want to roll my eyes because I am 16 and I know it all, and I am OBVIOUSLY way too cool for this, I allow myself to share a giddy laugh with my tiny family, our mouths hanging in awe at all of this opulence and infamy in real life. Though the scenario itself is tragic, the place itself feels a bit magical.

My dad navigates all the streets and our final drive-by includes the last place Ron Goldman was seen alive — the restaurant Mezzaluna. If only he hadn’t left his job to return that pair of sunglasses his story may have had an entirely different ending. I’m struck by the amazing power of one small decision to change the entire course of your life. I wonder if any of my big life decisions even matter at this point, or whether it all just comes down to the ticking clock of fate. When we get home I don’t apply to UCLA.

I end up at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo the fall after I graduate. I take courses in Political Science and work at the Starbucks downtown but good friends are hard to come by and lack of interest in my course work causes my grades to suffer. I am so confused about what to do next but finally during the winter quarter of 1998 I realize I do not want to finish college here. I have no other plans but I just know this isn’t where I want to be anymore, so I tell my parents. You can imagine their delight. I move home in June despite repeated discussions of alternatives because I am stubborn and it just feels right. I’m sure I will convince them it is the right move once I’m back at home. Two months later, however, my dad is gone and no more convincing is needed. The move was a blessing.

I spend the year after his death living with my mom while we piece together a new existence. It never becomes comfortable or familiar, and it certainly no longer feels like home. I don’t know what I want to do but I know I can’t stay in that town and continue to live that life. I am 20 years old and a friend attending UCLA says I should move there and try something new. In August I pack up the pieces of my life and head into Los Angeles with no money, no job and no idea what the hell I’m doing with my life. One day on a long drive alone — something I will do often during my time here — I find myself in Brentwood again. I am suddenly and profoundly aware of the Before and After of my life — a palpable emotion that will become commonplace over the next few years. At the same time that I feel such a huge loss I also feel more at home than I have in a while.

There is a Peet’s Coffee & Tea opening there. It is minutes from my house, I am unemployed and I have experience working for Starbucks. Obviously, I apply. At the last minute I almost don’t go because I figure a job in coffee is not going to pay my bills. The interview goes well and they offer me the job on the spot. The store will open in two weeks and they are not fully staffed — can I start immediately? I drop the bomb about how much money I need to make per hour in order to stay afloat here in this big city and the interviewer actually laughs out loud.

Looking back I can’t blame her, but I am 20 years old and short on life experience, so I think I am doing her a favor. Part of my behavior is ballsy. Part of it comes from a sense of entitlement that I will later feel embarrassed by, but at that point I can’t tell the difference and so I play hard ball about salary. A few phone calls are made and they agree to my magic number. I will tell this story over and over later on in my life as an illustration of the simple magic that sometimes happens when you ask for what you need.

I walk out the door excited about my new job right as a tour bus goes by. Every seat is full and all heads are cranked looking inside of my new place of employment. My face must have had questions marks written all over it because a man walking by gives the store a little head nod.

“This is the old Mezzaluna. They go by at least 10 times a day.”

And in the end, they do.

Day in and day out people will drive by gawking so often that I eventually won’t even notice unless someone points it out. My life has changed so much between the day that I was doing the gawking and now. The novelty of this event and of this place where I work now — even of the famous people who patronize it — will eventually wear off. But in this city and at this job I will begin to build a home. It will be where I begin to build my own life. For so many reasons Brentwood will end up being full of magic. And no one will be more surprised by this than me.

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A Love Letter to Jello Salad

So Thanksgiving is all about the food.  That’s a given. 

Of course it is also about gratitude and tradition and family and all of that goodness and stuff, but since I don’t have any kids yet and I’m pretty grateful the other 364 days of the year, WHEN DO WE EAT?  I’m looking forward to football, family, card games and good times, but what I really can’t wait for is DINNER!  Or lunch, I guess. 

Do you all eat your Thanksgiving dinners early?  We like to eat around 3 so that we can have pie (or turkey sandwiches, what?) around actual dinner time. 

Anyway, both my mom’s and dad’s sides of the family cook very similar spreads, so it doesn’t matter who we are celebrating with because there is always a delicious feast.  There is one major difference in the two menus though, and it happens to involve one of my absolute favorite dishes:  Raspberry Jello Salad.  You see it’s a staple on my dad’s side of the family, but we only occasionally make it on my mom’s.  There is really no rhyme or reason to it on my mom’s side, sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t, but usually it is per my request.   I thought about whipping up a real quick batch tonight, but with all the other dishes I am tasked with, plus squeezing in one more workout so I can freely snarf stuffing without guilt, it just seemed like a bit too much.   So since I’m not going to be eating it, well, I feel the need to at least discuss it at length.  Will you humor me? 

First of all, I will acknowledge a few things about this recipe:

1.  I Get it.  It is not salad.
I used to have an irritatingly food obsessed roommate and during one of the years we lived together I cooked my first Thanksgiving Dinner EVER (you know…by myself.)  I was feeling sentimental and I was telling her about each dish and how I made them, and why we make them year after year when I pulled out this dish she laughed like I had just told the most hilarious joke.  Then she tried it and said,  “Yeah, it’s good, but you are kidding yourself if you think this is a salad.  This totally isn’t very healthy, Holly.” 

And all I can say to that is THANK GOD SHE ENLIGHTENED ME.  I mean where would I have been in life had she not made a flow chart defining salads and health for me in our little kitchen?  Praise the lord!

For this, and many other reasons as you may assume, we are not only no longer roommates but no longer friends.  But I do think about her often when I make this SALAD, and 12 years later I still feel incredibly happy that I chose it over her.  It’s that good, people.     

2.  I Get it.  It sounds gross.
I have seen many different faces when I’ve explained that my favorite thanksgiving dish involves a jello salad with cream cheese, whipped cream and — wait for it — pretzels.  Not all of them have been excited faces.  It sounds like a ridiculous combination, and I full acknowledge that.  But let me just promise you that it is the best gift from the Sweet and Savory Gods, and I swear on a bag of kettle corn that the combination works.  And it just gets better and better as the days pass. 

3.  I get it.  It’s a dessert.  It doesn’t really go with the meal.
Who the hell cares when I eat it, you psycho control freak?  Oops, sorry, I think that was a little residual ex-roommate rage there.  Seriously though, it does taste more like a dessert than a side dish.  But if no one is going to be a stickler with the candied yams about it, then leave my jello salad alone too, okay?

4.  I get it.  Jello Salad is NOT sexy.
In fact, there is little that is less sexy than jello salad, well you know, at least when we are talking about cravings and Thanksgiving food.  I nominate Turducken as a food that sure sounds less sexy, but I have to agree that saying a jello salad is one of my favorites sort of makes me  feel like I’m answering one of those “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes in the affirmative.  

But it is so super duper delicious that I am willing to put all of those points aside!  And I have to admit, I will really be missing my Raspberry Jello Salad this year.  So on the off chance you are in dire need of a last minute side dish/salad/dessert, this recipe on Tasty Kitchen is quite similar to the one traditionally served in my family.  And you should try it, because I dare you not to love it.  Plus then we could be White Trash Friends Forever.   

Do you think they make a necklace for that? 

Do you have any crazy family food traditions?  Tell me so I don’t feel so stupid now that I have written a bazillion words about jello salad.  Pretty please?

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Tales of My City

I’ve been looking for a new book to read for a few days now.  I wasn’t quite ruined by the last book I read, though I did find it mostly entertaining.  It was a library book that I picked out right before my trip to Chicago because I assumed it would give off the vibe of “Don’t sit next to me on the plane *ahem*  I like extra leg room”  and since it worked for 3 of the 5 legs of my flights, it appears I was correct in that assumption.  (Would you sit by someone reading this?  Me either.)  My shelf of checked-out library books has dwindled, so out of necessity I have been aimlessly perusing my own bookshelf lately, which frankly is a collection large enough that if I devoured every unread book available I could probably stay away from the library for at least a year or two.  But since they are kind enough to subscribe to all the good magazines I like, and I already have to stop by weekly to keep up with the Kardashians and Justin Bieber’s hair and all that, reaching for one the books I already own first rarely ever happens. 
(Sidebar:  What are you reading right now?  I need to pad my library reservation list too since that is also quickly dwindling!)
So when I headed over to Peet’s to grab some tea and say hi to Garrett this afternoon, I was thrilled to see Sacramento Bee’s Books & Media section abandoned at an empty table.  On the front page was a feature article on Armistead Maupin, as he is doing a reading at the Library Galleria this week to promote his new book.  It was such an entertaining article and it reminded me of my years living in LA in an instant.  I talk about my life in LA sometimes on this blog, but definitely not enough.  I’m going to fix that.  It was such a fun and unique time in my life and full of stories — and today’s article reminded me of that.    
You see I moved to LA when I was 19 because a friend of mine at the time was going to school down there.  I had taken a hiatus from college, my dad had just died, and really my life had a complete lack of direction – why not move to LA, I thought?  So I did.  And I immediately got a job at Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Brentwood (fun fact:  the Peet’s I worked in was actually the old location of Mezzaluna Trattoria of OJ Simpson fame, and years earlier in the midst of the famous trial while my parents and I were looking at colleges we must have driven by it a hundred times so my mom could film it at every angle because she was so wrapped up in that trial!)  

One of my responsibilities at that store was Community Marketing, which was just a fancy title for schlepping thermoses of coffee to big events to promote Peet’s and then sitting there with a smile on my face serving all evening.  I thought it was a giant pain in the ass at the time, and my car’s light colored interior definitely suffered dragging brewed coffee back and forth through LA traffic, but looking back I got to hang out at some very cool events for free just because I was serving coffee:  Food and Wine festivals, concerts, chi chi parties, you name it and chances are I served coffee there.

One of my favorite events to serve was the UCLA Hammer Lectures & Readings Series  which featured lectures by prominent authors, musicians, and artists.  I would serve coffee before the event started and then I could sneak in and listen to Elvis Costello talk about his songwriting process, or Margaret Atwood discuss exactly what she thought of literary criticism.  It was a thankless part of my job for which I most certainly wasn’t not getting paid, but the benefit of eavesdropping on such uncensored fantastic talents was pretty inspiring to me at the time and was an incredible perk, especially since I was so lost in my life at the time. 

One of the final lectures that I attended was one featuring Armistead Maupin.  He spoke of his travels and of San Francisco.  He detailed the catharsis of writing one of his most famous novels and coming out all in the same year.  He talked about AIDS and how no one was discussing it when he started writing about it, about film and about music.  He was the kind of person who you wanted to invite to your cocktail party and sit next to wide-eyed the entire evening. 

After the event I was carrying all of my gear out to my car parked in this back alley, certainly bitching in my head about how I should not have to be doing this so late at night — and it must have been written all over my face because all of a sudden out of nowhere I heard someone say “Need a toke?” and then a giggle to himself.  I turned around to find the event’s Guest of Honor outside smoking a joint all alone, and I couldn’t believe that this super famous author was willing to lend me an ear and a puff.  I declined at the time because I was 20, and a do-gooder, and the sheer shock of someone openly smoking marijuana on the University campus was almost too whacky for my sheltered little mind to even conceive of, but he had such a kind face and was so earnest in his effort to let me know “It’s here if you need it.”

Of course after that encounter I went out and picked up a few of his books, though I have never actually cracked the spine and read one.  Not for any particular reason either, except that I have a lot books and most of them end up sitting on the shelves unread because of my penchant for library books.  And when I thought of that story this afternoon while drinking my tea, it pretty well convinced me that Tales of the City needs to be my next book choice, even if I do have to do some digging around on my bookshelves.  And hell, with the annoying Monday that I’ve had today, don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind to head downtown later this week and take him up on that long overdue offer.  I think we all know that my do-gooder tendencies still have a stronghold even 10 years later though, so chances are it’ll probably remain just a memory.

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Passion Pit, Peroxide Yarmulkes, and Pictures

Is it just me or have any of you all looked at your calendar lately and said to yourself “Where the hell has April gone?”  My god, I looked at my calendar last night wondering about the next time I would have a moment of down time all to myself and had to actually flip it to the month of May.  Sigh…Weren’t we just talking about New Year’s Resolutions? 

This isn’t a bad thing though, I swear.  In fact even though this week is going to fly by, it is full of Super!  Fun!  Things!  Including a Wednesday night show in Davis to see Passion Pit (yay!) and then on Friday, we are Seattle Bound!  I may even end up doing laundry somewhere in there too otherwise Seattle better get ready to see my in my wrinkled best.  I figure this will be acceptable though because if people look at me funny I will just say I’m making a pilgramage to the capital of grunge!  Although this time around I will wear much less plaid than I did in the 90s.  And of course I’ll be sure to make sure my lipstick doesn’t make me look like I’ve been sucking on a tailpipe.  You’ve got to draw the line somewhere you know.


And among all of the touristy things I plan to do I assure you that I most certainly do plan to fight fellow tourists at Kerry Park for pictures of that view.  Hell, I may even wear a fanny pack and a camera around my neck while I’m at it — what of it?

(Excuse me while I take a minute to stop laughing my ass off because I am having a gay old time visualizing myself in an awful plaid shirt, wrinkly jeans, and Dr. Martens, while I also strap on a fanny pack and sling a camera around my neck.  This trip is going to be awesome!  Maybe I will just do some laundry.  There’s a thought. )

Anyway — digression, apparently is my middle name!  So we will be there for a long weekend and I have made a spreadsheet of all the places I want to go because I am a giant nerd like that and have come to realize that instead of 4 days, we need about 40. People, there are 47 restaurants on my list.  FORTY SEVEN.  Not sure how to reconcile that just yet, but I can tell you this much — I told Garrett he needs to pack layers and his appetite! The weather looks to be pretty nice and of course we will get to visit some fabulous people, so I basically can’t wait for that! GOD I CAN’T WAIT FOR THAT. 

The only downer is that I anticipate taking about 970 billion pictures, and I sort of hate my haircut right now.  I wish I could say my hairdresser is to blame, but actually she is the most adorable thing on the planet and gave the exact cut that I asked for — I just um…well…don’t love it.  So yeah there’s that.  But I keep trying to remind myself that this haircut is not that bad.  After all it is nothing like the time I went to see my old hairdresser in Los Angeles for a cut and I walked out with a peroxide yarmulke.  A YARMULKE OF PEROXIDE….let that sink in for a minute.  My lesson after that incident was if a hairdresser ever says that you should go a little bit “avante garde” turn and run the other direction.    

So yeah, this hair is not that bad.  It’s short and has bangs.  Big whoop, there is no peroxide and no yarmulke, so I will live.  But it probably means that I will take plenty of pictures of the adorable looking patio that we will have outside of the condo that we are staying in instead of me!  Whatever.  We’ll see what happens.   I mean if all else fails and I run out things to photograph, I will just start taking pictures of meals we eat because you know there will be no shortage of opportunities there. 

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