An Open Letter to My Los Angeles Apartment Building

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Dear Apartment Building–

It’s been three years since I first arrived in LA and you were there to greet me when I hopped off of the I-10 (we both know it’s called a “highway” but if you call it anything other than a “freeway” these Californians will verbally punch you in the face).

3 years in one building is the longest I’ve lived in one place for probably my entire life. We moved around quite a bit when I was a kid, due to one circumstance or another. From my birth in Spain, to Puerto Rico, to DC and then 5+ moves to different apartments and houses in the Old Dominion, I can’t think of a single place that holds the title for longest stint over you.

I had a different dorm building every year in college, lived in DC for 1.5 years, back in my hometown for 6 months, and then it was off to La La Land.

For the first time, I’ve got an emotional connection to the place I’m living and it’s both infuriating and comforting.

You see, you’re rent is way too high for my delicate sensibilities.

Yet, according to real estate websites and the general chitter-chatter of the people of this city, you’re rent is actually incredibly cheap.

Since I moved in in July 2012, the rent estimate has spiked over $1,355. That’s $451 a year. A YEAR.

And the crazy thing is that the building company is actually getting people willing to pay the new insanely high price without batting an eyelash.

Add that to the fact that you have rent control and that’s two huge pros to negate almost all of your cons because my rent will never skyrocket at an uncontrollable speed.

Based solely on those numbers, I will completely ignore the fact:

–that I don’t have a dishwasher, garbage disposal, AC, or in-unit laundering machines,

–that you’re plumbing is constantly malfunctioning due, in large part, to the fact that you’re nearing 100 years old,

–that I don’t have a parking space which sends me into spirals of anxious terror when I’m walking home alone at night (even with mace and a taser). Yes, the neighborhood is statistically safe, but YOU NEVER KNOW. Thankfully, I’ve got a very tolerant significant other that will walk me home over the phone and will quickly alert the police should I drop the line for some reason.

There are tenants in this building that have lived here for almost 20 years, so I’m not the only one that thinks that there must be something about you that just won’t let us quit you.

Maybe it’s because what you do have is an immense amount of character. Your architecture is beautiful and the interior of my apartment is kinda pretty.  I don’t feel like I’m living in a quickly manufactured box like most of the new apartments being thrown up all over this city. You don’t have pests or rodents to make me gag a little when I see them scurry across the floors of other places. In every other season, besides the end of summer, your temperature is not only bearable, but pleasant.

Most importantly for me, you have the ability to make me freak out a little less about the future because I know I have you to count on (as long as I’m making money, that is).

You, so far, have been the one unfailing constant in my life as an Angeleno.

So I’m going to crank up my fan, remember that I can’t shower between 10am and 4pm today because the water to the building will be shut off for maintenance, and refuse to shed tears while writing my rent check (again). Because you’re worth every penny.

Love,

Short and Feisty

This can be said about most of LA, too.

This can be said about most of LA, too.

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All the Single Ladies–Buying Cars

This post is part of the Short and Feisty Finance Series.

To stay up-do-date on all of Short and Feisty’s posts, click the Follow this blog button at the top right of this page.

This is an actual meme on the internet–

I’m writing this post at 8:00pm on a Monday night–after working a twelve hour shift in less than ideal conditions.

BUT STILL, I’m alive and I’m getting paid for it, so I’ll save the griping for another post and get down to why I actually opened up the laptop tonight.

Buying a car when you’re a damsel in distress strong independent lady.

So here’s the deal: I wish that I could say that salesmen aren’t biased when they see a woman shopping for a car on her own. I wish that I could say that the Toyota dealership in Santa Monica didn’t try to take advantage of me based on stereotypes and assumptions. I also wish I could say that I won the lottery this morning so I never have to work another day in my life so GOODBYE SIX YOUR OLD THAT CAN’T WIPE HIS OWN BUTT.

But if I said any of those things, I would be lying to you and then I would have to take time out of my 12-14 hour workdays to go to confession. Which actually might be nice…SO IT’S ALL TRUE.

Before I dive deeper into the topic of buying a car as a single lady, you should know that I am a firm believer in “buy used and save the difference” when it comes to automobiles. Those suckers depreciate the minute you drive them off of the lot so, unless you’re rich as hell, there’s no need to buy brand spanking new.

About a year and a half ago, I was in the market for a new car. I’d been driving a Sebring for about 4 years and I LOVED that car but knew I wanted a hybrid. Something about drinking the water in Los Angeles (sparingly drinking, there IS a 4 year drought, people) that made me want a Prius in particular. I purchased my Sebring at Carmax and was intending to go back but wanted to give a traditional dealership a chance.

BIG MISTAKE.

We’ll start with the similarities, move on to my CarMax experience (by the way, I was not paid to post this. This is just my experience), and then head to the dealership.

Similarities

  • There is a LOT of waiting–either on the front end with the traditional dealership and waiting to see what they can “offer you” or with Carmax when dealing with settling up the loan.
  • There are cars at both (ha!) but Carmax has a bigger selection from a lot of different makes and models.

Carmax

  • Walk into the door–a single salesman approaches you and tells you they can help if you need them OR you can look around the lot on your own and find them when you’d like more help.
    • Carmax has a NO HAGGLE policy–the price you see is the price EVERYONE gets, regardless of age/race/gender, etc.
  • I found the cars I liked and wanted to test drive, so the salesmen took me out in ALL of them. It had to be 5+ cars, but he was very patient and didn’t rush me.
  • When I picked my car, they didn’t attempt to dissuade me from getting it or try to get me to buy a car that I couldn’t afford. That was MY CAR. And with all of the bells and whistles, I was paying a really fair price under Kelly Blue Book value.
  • They offered me a fair trade-in value for my Sebring.
  • I could contact my bank over the phone and have the loan-junk handled that way–I already knew the price and didn’t have to wait for someone in the “back room” to crunch the numbers

Dealership

  • I walk up and several salesmen pounce–I end up with a middle aged dude with an incredibly heavy accent.
  • I tell them the model and features that I wanted in a Prius–instead, they showed me a bunch of things I didn’t ask for.
    • Things that were either well above my budget OR they showed me Prius cars with ZERO bells and whistles, cars older than the ones at Carmax with less features for $5k-$8k more than what Carmax was offering me.
  • They offered me less-than-jack-sh*t for my Sebring to trade-in (I was personally offended since I took great care of it and it was less than 6 years old).
    • When I mentioned that CarMax had offered $6,000 more for my trade in, he suggested I sell my car to Carmax and buy my Prius with them (ha!).
  • The salesman zeros in on ONE CAR he thinks will be “perfect” for me–that one without the bells and whistles but with the high price tag. It’s as if there are no other cars on the lot and he immediately goes in to “run the numbers” like I was the one that settled on that car.
  • The sales person kept taking his time and mozying to the “back room” to get the guy to see what was the “best he could do for me” which was still next to nothing.
    • The price for this used bland-mobile was MORE expensive than a brand new Prius C (a smaller version of the Prius).
    • When he came back with the numbers breakdown, there was the price of the car and then a ton of hidden fees that jacked the rate up even more.
  • When I told him several times that that wasn’t going to work for me, that the standard model of the used Prius should not be MORE expensive than its most tricked out version 2 years younger (the Carmax car), all he could say was that the dealership had better cars than the ones at Carmax and that I would be making a mistake buying from them.

NOW. Can I prove that the reason the salesman was so obtuse and underhanded with me was because I was a woman shopping for a car alone? Nope, I can’t do that. But when I saw DUDES on the lot helping other DUDES, and eavesdropped on conversations in the salesroom, I felt as if this guy was attempting to make decisions for me rather than listen to what I had to say because I was a lady. When I tried to take charge of everything, he talked down to me rather than talking WITH me.

After reading all that, I bet you can guess which one I went with–

The Dealership.

PSYCHE! I left Carmax happy with my purchase, secure knowing that I paid the same price any other person would’ve paid, and also knowing that I got a great deal on a really great car.

In summary:

  • Buy used, save the difference.
  • Go to Carmax, unless you’re really good at haggling or being obnoxiously assertive and calling chauvinists out on their bullhockey.
  • This crap happens all the time (see the above meme!) so don’t take anyone’s nonsense. Also don’t feel like you HAVE to drag your guy-pal to the dealership to be treated fairly. Either they respect you OR you don’t buy from them.
  • Do your research before you shop. Know what kind of prices you should be quoted for the make, model, year, and mileage on a car.
  • Again: Don’t take anyone’s baloney!

For When You Need a Little Perspective

Wake up, ready to start the day. Lay around in bed until 7:30am (wow, that’s late for the person with an infallible internal alarm clock that thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to be up at 6:15am every morning).

Roll out of bed and peer into the empty refrigerator. “I really should put some effort into grocery shopping.”

Grab a juice box, hand delivered by the mailman from an Amazon order. Shopping made easy.

Open up your laptop, pull out your (gifted) iPad, and somehow lose two hours of your life to clicking and scrolling.

On Netflix, sink into a BBC series that you’ve seen a million times. On Facebook, notice several friends have achieved some career/home/life accolades and make sure you feel SO BEHIND.

The facebook encounter will get you in a tizzy, so much so, that you must immediately seek out an edible item made primarily of chocolate to soothe your case of the grumpies. You make it to Starbucks, pay for a chocolate croissant and smush it into your face in the time it takes to inhale three solid breaths.

Then, feel guilty because you’ve started today with sugar and carbs instead of healthy, non-dairy, non-gluten, non-taste-organic, “Los Angeles typical” fare.

Spend too much time in your day fretting over the submissions you’ve made to various entertainment festivals, fellowships, and competitions. It’s not un-like waiting to hear back on college admission. You submit. They take way longer than you thought humanly possible to decide, and either accept or reject you with a short note mentioning how steep the competition was and how everyone can’t make it in.

You putter around, wasting gas, but feel ok about it because it’s improving your overall mental state. Plus, you drive the Prius so can be a tiny smug about sending less emissions to float over our heads in the smog-ridden-valley that we call home.

You recall that this Sunday, you’ll be nannying so that your bosses can head to the Emmy’s and you wish YOU were going–you’re tired of watching the industry from behind the diaper bag. You want to be a PART of it beyond keeping the kids of the actors and agents and producers safe and sound while THEY work.

You brainstorm ideas for a new film project while you drive, but lament the fact that you can’t write anything down because TWO HANDS ON THE WHEELS, PLEASE. And buying a tape recorder to talk into would just feel silly.

Half the day is wasted away, so you start to feel guilty about that, too.

Why does it always seem like the walls are falling in and you’re not getting the opportunities you need in order to break into your chosen field?

Why is life so hard?

Why can’t it be easier for YOU in particular?

WHY YOU?!

And then…you get this text message from the other nanny at your new job:

Can you please come to work for me.

(…)

I  have to go home, to Guatemala.

(…)

They killed my nephew, his wife, their child, and I’m taking the next flight out.

Your body goes numb but you text back that you’re on your way and you jump into your car. You guide your fancy hybrid car onto the street. You lift that over-priced cup of coffee out of the cupholder and note that your belly is full. You turn on the music through your bluetooth feature from your expensive iPhone. You note that, though you live in a city with a history of crime and gangs, it’s possible to walk down the street in your part of town without the threat of getting shot. You note that your family and friends are safe and sound in suburbia or in other big cities–still safer than in 90% of other countries in this world. You listen to the music, realize that you have a wonderful and privileged life, and can’t believe how fitting the first song you hear is:

Would you please take me away from this place
I cannot bear to see the look upon your faces
And if there is some kind of god do you think he’s pleased
When he looks down on us I wonder what he sees
Do you think he’d think the things we do are a waste of time
Maybe he’d think we are getting on just fine
Do you think he’s skint or financially secure
And come election time I wonder who he’d vote for

Ever since he can remember people have died in his good name
Long before that September
Long before hijacking planes
He’s lost the will he can’t decide
He doesn’t know who’s right or wrong
But there’s one thing that he’s sure of this has been going on too long

Do you think he’d drive in his car without insurance
Now is he interesting or do you think he’d bore us
Do you think his favourite type of human is caucasian
Do you reckon he’s ever been done for tax evasion
Do you think he’s any good at remembering people’s names
Do you think he’s ever taken smack or cocaine
I don’t imagine he’s ever been suicidal
His favourite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival

Ever since he can remember people have died in his good name
Long before that September
Long before hijacking planes
He’s lost the will he can’t decide
He doesn’t know who’s right or wrong
But there’s one thing that he’s sure of this has been going on too long

Ever since he can remember people have died in his good name
Long before that September
Long before hijacking planes
He’s lost the will he can’t decide
He doesn’t know who’s right or wrong
But there’s one thing that he’s sure of this has been going on too long

Lessons from the Land of La La

I’ve been in LA for three years now and I’ve learned a lot about myself.

The first is that I’m fairly awful about keeping up with serialized blog posts. I promise to get back on the Short and Feisty Finances train and I’ll have to finish up about my trip to Sequoia National Park.

But before I do, here are a few more things I’ve learned about myself:

  • I will no longer stay in a job that makes me miserable. I won’t be sacrificing my overall happiness to “make it to a year for my resume” ever again. If I’ve attempted to make some changes, kept communication open and honest with my employers, and things aren’t changing–PEACE OUT, CUB SCOUT.
  • Working a weird schedule isn’t ideal for a social life, but it is ideal to the overall pursuit of my acting/writing goals, which means I’m sticking with the weird work schedule. I make NO apologies for prioritizing this way. Because that coffee date doesn’t pay the rent, son!
  • It’s hard for me to become motivated to shower, but once I get in, it’s hard for me to get out.
  • I miss my family and friends back home, terribly! But I also don’t enjoy transcontinental flights. So skype, phone calls, and letter writing it is!
  • Staying motivated on a daily basis to create is difficult when one would think it would be second nature.
  • I am a freaking BALLER STATUS nanny. It took me a while to figure this out, for some reason, but I received several job offers whilst not even on the job market (and ended up taking one). Before this realization, I was really good at second guessing my methods and choices. NO MORE!  IF ONLY nannying was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! Sadly, it’s not, so that feels like a waste.
  • I miss the rain. UGH, I hate admitting that because it rained so much on the East Coast that it was easy to take it for granted. But it rained pretty hard yesterday and all the cars are shiny and glowing today (including mine, free car wash!) and I do miss it.
  • Still not a fan of spicy food–my tongue and digestive system corroborate this finding.
  • I am totally getting in to the spirit of DIY. I taught myself to knit proficiently, sew, etc. I kind of love making things with my hands and then showing it off to the world.
  • I’m impatiently waiting for my life to begin–not realizing that it’s started already.

Sequoia? I barely know her! Pt. 1

Please excuse my awful title–I thought of it on the drive home from the park and convinced myself that it HAD to be used.

My last post, from the Short and Feisty Finances Series, brought you the budget for this trip, so now it’s time to get down to the Nature Nitty Gritty.

I was a Girl Scout for most of my formative years and grew up running through the trees, singing the hits of the Spice Girls, and preparing the silliest possible skits to share at the campfire. I can’t remember a time in the last 5 years where I spent a significant time exploring the flora and fauna of our untapped lands, so I figured it was about time.

While watching the nature documentary series Planet Earth (now streaming on Netflix), I learned that largest known living single stem tree on EARTH was 3.5 hours north of me.

https://i1.wp.com/media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m8vvjz0QA11qzqdem.gif

So I packed up my car (read: I got into it with my phone, keys, wallet, and iPad mini–remember I neglected to plan) and mapped the route using the Google Maps app.

Through my AUX plug, I streamed the Overdrive app on my iPad and listened to some audiobooks that I’d checked out of the LA Public Library system–all over the internet.

WHAT IS THIS TECHNOLOGY!?

The fairly tedious drive is accented with giant oil rig farms, rows and rows of orange orchards (including the orchards for the clementine brand Lil’ Cuties!), and a good deal of run-down architecture–as if time forget this pocket of the state and left the buildings untouched.

I got through a good chunk of the beginning of “Dracula” when I started seeing signs for the park. Near to the entrance, a lake popped up to my left. This was especially puzzling to see for a SoCal transplant that moved one year into an on-going 4 year drought.

“What is that wet stuff down there,” I asked no one in particular, for there was no one in the car.

More puzzling were the lines in the mountains that looked like they’d been carved there:

IMG_3419

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Obviously the drought has taken it’s toll on this lake as that mark is where the water USED to be.

Further along and I encountered this cute little Happy Valley that gave me warm fuzzy feelings–for many years, I would daydream about California (most of my knowledge based off of 1960’s Disney live action movies) and this setting just brought back all of that TV nostalgia:

IMG_3417

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Up some more sloping hills, I came to the entrance of the park where I was given a map, a quarterly newspaper of park information, and where I bought my pass.

IMG_3333

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

“Will there be signs pointing me to the General Sherman Tree?” I asked the booth attendant.

“Oh yeah, there’s tons of signs.”

WRONG. The signs for the General Sherman Tree didn’t start until you got close to it–before that, you have almost an hour’s worth of a drive to get up there. And it’s all through winding mountains, on a two lane road, some of which has absolutely NO barrier between your car and the gaping crevasse in the mountains.

As someone who has both an anxiety disorder AND a giant fear of heights, the 7,000+ foot ascent was no easy task–my hands were clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought they may bleed and my foot remained so light on the gas pedal that I felt badly for anyone traveling behind me.

Lucky for me, since it was the middle of the week, there weren’t so many people traveling into the park, so I could go as slowly as I wanted.

When I entered The Giant Forest, my jaw dropped to my chest. HOLY MOLY I had never seen trees so tall or THICK. Some were so big that I guestimated you’d need at least 20 people linking arms to hug these giant plants.

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

Photo Credit | ShortandFeisty.com

The Big Daddy of them all, The General Sherman Tree, sits at the top of my must-see list. But first, I had to hike a half mile to get there.

IMG_3342For someone in moderately good shape, the hike down is a cinch. There were plenty of old people moseying down the trail and a long-legged Norse family that was walking slower than them and taking up the WHOLE FREAKING PATHWAY HOW ARE YOU SO SLOW YOU BLONDE HAIRED AMAZONIANS?!

At the base of these mountains, it was about 90 degrees that day but when I reached The General Sherman Tree, it was only a cool 67! NATURE! WONDERS! NATURE!

I got to the foot of the trail and was ready to meet the big daddy tree of all big daddy trees–

Stay tuned for Part 2!