Urb& Goal #3

While curmudgeonly driving home today with LA's Sunday drivers, I found myself riding behind a car with a bumper sticker that read: 
"Think less, Breathe more." 
I'm not generally a bumper sticker kinda girl, but this one really got me thinking..... and breathing I guess. 
Since graduating (UCSB), I've moved home (the San Fernando Valley) and started a corporate job (hoteling) in a failing economy. I've attempted to keep myself balanced and calm in a world of things that are out of my hands by reading about Zen Buddhism. And while applying the core philosophies to my own life, I have managed to alter my outlook and improve my perception of the the here and now....... with the help of my blog, of course. I've missed you since Thursday!
The first Zen book I picked up (at the library) was Brad Warner's second book about Zen Buddhism, since then I have read his other two as well. (He's a truly rockin' author for anyone looking to learn a little bit about Zen or punk rock or plain old life.) He presents the philosophy of Zen and the teachings of Zazen meditation in a hugely palatable and applicable way. One of his teachings that has most impacted me is in his second book, Sit Down and Shut Up in a chapter called, Kill Your Anger. It's about letting go of thoughts (as they ruminate and swell until they erupt into pangs of anger and resentment) and clearing your head of future and past to allow your actions to maintain the unimportance and impermanence of the here and now. The act of breathing and sitting without thinking (essentially Zazen practice) is his way of keeping his balance and staying as far away from anger as possible. 

There is something so freeing, so cleansing about taking deep breaths. And before I knew it, I was home and I had thought of my next goal for Urban Ampersand:
Goal #3: To share the soundtrack of my life, 
I've always wished I had one & now is as good a time as any.

Today: Emiliana Torrini, Big Jumps. 



There's a children's book called "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," I'm sure you've heard of it, but it's about a mischievous little mouse who convinces a young boy of a whole string of things that he needs to go with the cookie the boy was kind enough to share. His list of requests goes from milk to a mirror to a trim of his hair to a box of crayons to draw with. 

I get this way when I find a new book... 

Once I find the next book to lose myself in, I will need a quirky, independent cafe with a comfy chair and good music to sit at while I read. I will also need to have an extra hot cappuccino in hand and a couple snacks to munch on (a variety of salty and sweet is preferred). I will need a sharp pencil for marking off good quotes, interesting facts and well-composed sentences. It's also helpful to have a friend or two convinced to read the same book (for people to discuss with of course). 

So it's probably no surprise that I have a list of my favorite independent cafes and coffeeshops...

  • Northstar Cafe :: State St. Santa Barbara 
  • Java Jones :: State St. Santa Barbara
  • Coffee Cat :: Anacapa St. Santa Barbara
  • Muddy Waters :: E. Haley. Santa Barbara
  • Aroma Cafe :: Tujunga. Studio City
  • Beanscene :: Lindero. Thousand Oaks
  • Doan's Bakery :: Ventura Blvd. Woodland Hills
  • Muddhouse Coffee :: Roscoe. San Fernando Valley  
  • Les Artisans :: Avenue Daumesnil. Paris
  • Les Arts :: Rue Mouffetard. Paris
.....A work in progress


Books Books & Books

On the topic of books.... I love them. Since I was a kid, my parents have teased me for always having my nose buried in a new book. We would road trip for hours and I would have no concept of where we were or where we had been.
I still read a lot now (although not while driving of course). In fact, it is not only the act of reading that I enjoy, but the hunt for the books themselves.
I find that buying books is just another excuse to get out and hunt for inspiration & life in the world around me.
There is a certain smell to a used bookstore that doesn't quite compare to Barnes & Noble or Borders. A smell that is inviting, nostalgic & timeless. Have you ever closely smelled the pages of a used book? It carries with it the memories and reactions of its past life. To think that the book you buy from a second hand shop could have changed its last owner's outlook; there could be tears staining its pages, laughter soaked in its binding.
I came across the (in)famous bookstore,
Shakespeare & Co.
when I was in Paris. The bookstore pictured below is not at its original location because it was closed during World War II, but both locations have a reputation for housing young ambitious authors in exchange for a few hours work each day. It was visited by many greats over the years such as Hemingway & Gertrude Stein & F. Scott Fitzgerald. They have a carefully selected collection of new books inside and a smattering of used books in crates outside the shop. I took to the used books outside and by the end of my trip I had bought so many books that I had to ship them home on their own.

There is a bookstore in Studio City called
Portrait of a Bookstore
which is similar in its handpicked selection of titles and authors, but the history just isn't there, the struggles and adversity that makes the Paris bookshop such an impressive enterprise don't exist.
....Still the place in Studio City is always busy with intellectuals and artists which I find satisfies a certain yearning in me while I am in the here and now.


Omnivore's Dilemma

This idea of shopping locally has grown in popularity in recent years. Honestly, I hadn't given it much thought until I began reading a book called: 
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, 
which has drastically changed my perception of the food industry (and all other industries for that matter). Pollan is a journalist who dives head first into the muck that is our food/oil/corn industry. He writes with unbiased and well-researched prose that reveals the dark side of our food production.

I walk through Farmer's Markets all over the world just to savor the flavors & the colors, the juicy, drippy deliciousness of fresh, ripe produce. So much work goes into producing fruits & vegetable the way they should grow, in small batches on self-sustaining farms. And there is something so real & so vibrant about these farmers and their crates of creations. There is something so diverse and varied about their products, even their way of life, this fascinates me and leaves me stuck between their way and the utter sameness of that which surrounds me.

Chrissy Bee

I came across a clothing boutique in San Francisco last June, 
it was glorious. 
The young woman who owned the shop was glowing, she seemed as if there was nowhere in the world she would rather be. She handpicked the merchandise & the selection itself was to die for. She had dainty, handmade jewelry made of pounded silver and charms. She had dresses that seemed to float in on the breeze from an era long forgotten. She traveled across the country to gather her handmade wares and she displayed them with pride. She hosted art galleries in her small space and it became a hub for local artists who wanted a relaxed atmosphere to share their art.

She asked if I wanted to be added to the mailing list and I poured over the e-mails she sent for the mere beauty of her selections. 

I learned in an e-mail just after Christmas that, with sadness, she would be closing her shop. I can only imagine it's due to the state of the economy; at the bottom of her e-mail she bid all an insightful reminder to "shop locally."

Urb& Goal #2

I guess my first goal brings me easily to my second...

Goal #2: 
To share the most memorable & invigorating of those moments with you, in hopes that someone else looking for inspiration will find it here.


Urb& Goal #1

So as things go, that was then and now is now. 
I am no longer living in a studio in Paris, I am living in the suburbs of LA with my family. I am no longer passing the world's finest boulangeries while strolling to class, instead I am cursing the LA traffic while guzzling a Starbucks Americano. 
A world of commerce & capitalism surrounds me, society is homogenized and we are bred to feed this machine. I thirst for independent booksellers & family-owned bakeries, unique clothing boutiques & quirky secondhand shops.

Inspiration is harder to come by here. 
....Nevertheless I vow to live fully each moment, 
& to actively seek out these inspiring places

And that brings me to the #1 goal of this blog: 
To live fully the here and now. 

PARIS...The Place Where My Life Began

I was almost killed while taking this photo. 

There was a mass of traffic screeching toward me from behind, horns blaring, bikes swerving, I hardly noticed and I didn't care. It was the first time I saw the street so clear, the sky so crisp and the colors so vibrant. I had to capture this moment that represents my love affair with Paris.

I lived on this street. And by lived I mean lived. It was a different kind of living than I had ever done before, there wasn't a moment left untouched.

Odds are good that I will eventually share hundreds of pictures from my life in Paris. It was one of the more amazing periods of my life. It was a time of discovery & independence, vivacity & eagerness and I probably grew more during these six months than I had grown in my entire 20 years of life.

An Experiment of Sorts...

I want to write, I want to grow, and what better way than to blog?
To have a space of my own to shout & whisper, to create & discuss.