This morning I read an email from one of our neighbors. His car had been broken into last night. Only some change had been taken but it wasn’t the first time. He and several other neighbors have been victim of car thefts on our little street in the last couple of years, which is unsettling, as it’s only a matter of time before houses get broken into too, as has happened fairly close by in our neighborhood. I sent him a consolation email and made a mental note to remind myself to always lock my doors.
Despite wanting to shed many of my material possessions over the course of this year, I did urge my husband David to buy a large garden shed that we can convert into a little room in the back garden. In my mind, the room will be a little “mummy retreat” or a “room of her own” where I can go in the evenings to escape the sounds of the tv and play gentle music and read a book when I need some time and peace for myself. But, it can also be a playroom for our son Theo and his friends if they want to be alone or need to play quietly while I do my work in the house. Perhaps if we get it insulated properly it can be a guest room where my brother Alan can stay on a future visit. At any rate, it’s a shed with a lot of potential and I am excited to transform it into a special space. I wasn’t up to the task of painting the chipboard walls inside, so we asked a friend Chris who has helped us out with various projects in our back yard over the years. He happened to be free this weekend so agreed to come and paint the shed today, despite the unbelievably humid weather the tropical storm brought to LA today.
When I embarked on my postgraduate course in Asian art run by Sotheby’s and London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, I began the course with their module on Indian art, where the roots of much Asian art lie. As soon as I started the course, I realized I that I had some intriguing companions with me on this fascinating art historical journey. One of them was an extremely beautiful and sophisticated woman from Italy called Renata. She was older than most of the other students and had kids who were already in college, so she had seen much more of the world than the rest of us had. However, that didn’t make her any less enthusiastic or interesting to me than the younger students. In fact, if anything, Renata had a keener appetite for learning than most of the twenty-somethings. Now that I am the age that she was then, I really understand why. Despite our age difference, we soon became friends.
I just returned from one of my favorite events of the year – a neighborhood block party around the corner from our home. Our friends Jennifer and Alex have organized it for the last few years by closing a block of their street off from traffic (with permission from the City), renting some long folding tables and chairs and inviting people from around the neighborhood to bring along some food or drink and join in. In Los Angeles, anything that shuts down the traffic and forces people to sit and stand in the streets is a rare and wonderful treat, but this event is special because it transforms one block of street into a festive space where friends and neighbors can gather to share food and drink and just be together. And then we can all just walk a few blocks back to our homes. This is rare in any modern city and practically unheard of in L.A..
It is a lot of work for Jennifer and Alex, a smart, dynamic couple with a terrific taste for fun and adventure. Jennifer is an environmental attorney and Alex is an architect, they have two kids, and yet somehow they still have the time and energy to organize an international supper club to explore restaurants serving foods from all around the world and this wonderful annual event that celebrates the joy of community and home. In anticipation of the block party today, I prepared a salad and a pasta dish and decided to chop up some cantaloupe and serve it on a couple of triangular, green ceramic plates. Typically in these potluck-type dinners, we take home our serving dishes, but today I decided to make the two green plates my Giveaway and leave them for Jennifer and Alex to use for one of their parties. The plates are fun, green and an interesting shape – a good match, I think, for their professions and a small token of gratitude offered to this inspiring couple who share a most generous spirit.
When Steve and Teresa invited us to their “Big Fight” party this eve, I wasn’t so much excited about the “fight” as I don’t like boxing. Nor was I excited at the idea of drinking, as I don’t think I can while I’m using the steroid inhaler to keep my airways open. No, I was thrilled to be getting out and going to a party with great people. It’s been a while since we socialized properly as a family. We’ve been sick, possibly contagious, or just exhausted, for weeks now, so it’s great to have a chance to go out and mingle. Especially with Steve and Teresa, a wonderful couple we have known for the last five years or so since Theo and their daughter Zofia were in kindergarten together.
Steve, is an educational reformer who has worked for the last twenty years as the founder of an L.A. Charter school organization called Green Dot Public Schools and more recently Future is Now Schools, an organization that helps schools to reform from within. While most of us parents complain about the failings of our education system and do the best we can on a micro level for our children, Steve spends his days (and many nights too probably) working to change the system. His intelligence, passion and energy are inspiring. Teresa is no less impressive. A mother of two (who used to work in radio and is also an amazing singer) with a husband who is often out of town for work, Teresa recently completed her teaching credentials, and her bright, warm personality and many talents will soon be unleashed on a high school in Los Angeles.
An evening with Steve and Teresa is so enjoyable in part because they are such interesting, dynamic people, but also because though they work hard, they also know how to relax and enjoy life too, something I need to work on more, and am certainly craving at the moment. To honor their adventurous, fun-loving spirits, I chose to give them a Japanese sake set, a gift that they could enjoy together. I’ve also offered to give them a little seminar on sake the next time we get together – hopefully soon – and they give me some pointers on relaxing and having fun!