The Power of Yoga

One of the best things I’ve done for myself here in LA is delve into my yoga practice.

My experience with yoga, until now, has been quite sporadic. As I traveled and moved from place to place, occasionally I would pick up a few classes here and there when I could: Barcelona, La Antigua, Chihuahua, Playa del Carmen.

Now, I go to YogaWorks – a chain here in LA – at least five times a week. In just one month, I’ve gone from having to warm up just to touch my toes to being able to bend in half, wrapping my fingers around my heels and pulling my nose close to my knees. And much more…

My anxiety about LA has calmed since I began yoga. Through the yoga practice I’ve been learning to better manage my emotions and observe them; choosing how to react to them instead of just blindly acting out from them. The benefits of yoga run deep on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.

Just how far can the benefits go? This last week, I learned that one of my yoga instructors is living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I had no idea. What a powerful example he is for all of us! Here’s a short video about Garth McLean‘s personal story:

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fotofatál: Jeff Simmons

My life is enriched to have a friend like Jeff. Now, we are all enriched to have photos of Jeff… lol. I’ve only just begun to tinker with the photos from his shoot, but here are a few samples:

fotofatál Wedding: Rand Courtney + Nikki Pittam

The BIG news: I’m opening a photo studio in LA with my new business partner Ben Blair. I was going to wait until we we were completely dialed in with all the details… but I just can’t wait!! So “unofficially” introducing our new photography company… fotofatál! I take credit for that phenomenal name… lol… but Ben gets all the credit for taking the concept and making it graphically perfect. Drop the “e” and add a red flair accent… perfect! We work well as a team…

Details to come…

In the meantime, please enjoy these images from our first wedding shoot. Congratulations to Rand Courtney and Nikki Pittam!

Ufff… I haven’t even gotten to the actual ceremony yet and I’ve posted too many photos. If I get some good feedback perhaps I’ll post more. In the meantime, these should suffice!

The Language of Dance

I’m totally having an attitude adjustment about LA. I realize now that my experience was being contaminated by a toxic friendship. Someone I had believed to be generous and enchanting turned out to be manipulative and ill-spirited. But, now that I’ve removed that person from my life and I’ve let go of problems and injustices associated with her, life is really starting to blossom here in this “labirinto di pazzia” – as the Italian-American and I fondly refer to this city. And, I have other amazing friends to thank for guiding me through the negativity and helping me embrace what Los Angeles does have to offer. Clara Berta, the “Italian-American” and my longtime friend Dustin are true blessings in my life here. I’m meeting more everyday, like my new biz partner (more about that soon!), Kristelle and David, a young gentleman Dustin introduced me to who has a stunning, Frank Sinatra-era voice. (David helped co-found Artful Edutainment though is no longer working with the non-profit.)

So, as I sit here at Coupa Cafe, a delightful little Beverly Hills oasis I just discovered today, I share my latest LA adventure:

Last night was an absolute trip. I gotta hand it to LA for being the epicenter of all things “hot and happening.” One finds themselves stumbling into all kinds of surreal experiences. So After playing phone tag for a few days with another quality friend I’ve met here, we finally connected yesterday evening on the phone as I was jamming out to David Guetta, walking home from an evening yoga class.

“I’m headed to a bar for a friends birthday in NOHO, want to join?” he offered.

“You know, I’ve been so focused on work… I do need to get out,” I reasoned. “I’d love to come. Just gimme a couple hours to get there since I gotta do the whole bus thang. Cool?”

All I knew was that I’d be going to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks… by the time I arrived I got wind of the plan to work our way into the private party located on the second floor of the new, hip NOHO joint The Federal. I’m not one to get too worked up about “getting in” to the “exclusive” events of LA but I’m not opposed to giving it a shot either. Apparently my friend had been working the relations with the bouncer before I even got there and we wound up strolling right on up. The buzz was that the event was full of professional dancers…

Now THAT is probably the closest thing I could get to becoming starstruck in LA. I LOVE to dance. As a child, I begged my mom to sign me up for dance lessons. We even bought a little dance outfit and I had a studio photo shoot in that little outfit. But, I never got to take lessons! I don’t blame my mom. I wanted the dance lessons on top of the rec soccer, select soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and traveling singing group I was already involved with. I didn’t want to give up any of the other activities, so dance (and music lessons for that matter) never happened. (I still cringe about missing out on both though.) So yeah, the whole “me always trying to literally do everything at once” is definitely a syndrome I was born with… lol. Despite the lack of dance lessons, I’ve managed to pick up a fair amount of salsa and I love to simply get down in the club. Inhibition is for the birds. I could care less of how it might look, my spirit is simply lit with joy when let loose and dance. But, feedback has suggested that I’m not so much the disaster on the dance floor… great to know I’m not the crazy dance floor freak at least. 😉

Right, back to The Federal. Turns out some of the nation’s best dancers were there, all celebrating the birthday of Roman Vasquez. Here’s a quick bio of this badass:

Coming from Phoenix, Arizona, Roman began his career as a hip-hop dancer. As his desire for dance grew, he received his technical training in his hometown and progressed while attending dance conventions and performing locally. Moving to Las Vegas he performed in EFX with David Cassidy at the MGM Grand Hotel, Splash at the Rivera and became a member of the Culture Shock Hip-hop Dance Troupe. Now residing in Los Angeles, Roman has had the opportunity to work with artists such as Eva Longoria, Roselyn Sanchez, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Celine Dion, Anastacia, just to name a few. Other television and video credits include Dance with Jerry Springer, Pepsi, Sprite, EL Pollo Loco, Days of Our Lives and Tina Landons Instructional video.

Awesome. So yeah, many of these kings and queens of dance began busting out their impromptu moves in the dance circle. Couple this with the fact that I haven’t gotten out to dance in months and I was on a complete natural, dance high. Watching these pros bust their moves made me long to be one of them. Okay, amidst all these amazing professionals, I was starting to feel a bit inhibited. Nonetheless, I let it all out once the dance circle dissolved. Then the best compliment of the night: one of these pros, Sid from Australia, started dancing with me.

“I like your style,” he acknowledged.

“I’ve got no style,” I laughed back.

“Nah, you’ve definitely got your own style.” After busting some moves together, I clued him in to how thrilled I was to see all this talent right here, in my face.

“But you’re a dancer right?” He asked. I laughed again.

“I’ve never had a dance lesson in my life,” I confessed. “But, I LOVE to dance. I just go with what I feel.” (I have had a few salsa lessons… but no hip hop, jazz, etc…)

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he prompted. “Are you serious??” I nodded sheepishly and admitted, “I don’t really know what I’m doing, but the moves just come. I would love to learn.”

“You know the language,” he asserted. “Now, it’s just about learning the words.” Exactly!!

After that entire exchange I was beyond giddy. A pro dancer thought I had some promise! Absolutely made my night!!

So, as I do commit myself more to LA, I’m making dance class a priority. At 25, I know it’s too late to think of any career out of it. But, that’s not what I want from it. I just want to finesse what my body already can’t help but to express. I just want to DANCE!!

¡¡Que rrrrrriiiccccooo!!

And speaking of surreal LA moments, I will just recap on a few I have yet to mention. They were cool but not nearly as cool as the dance experience…

  1. A wave of hello to/from Adam Sandler… as he filmed on the street I was living on at the time.
  2. Approaching Zoe Dechanel and annoying her with my pitch to get involved with a project… oh well.
  3. Neve Campbell… eating sushi at the next table.

Then, there are the restaurants. The Italian-American has really given me a divine sampling of LA:

The Bazaar

Probably my favorite restaurant I’ve thus encountered… ever. Here’s a bit about it:

The Bazaar is chef José Andrés’s masterpiece. At least so far. With designer Philippe Starck, he has fashioned a vast, shadowy space that includes a swanky bar, a patisserie with acres of sweet-filled glass cases, a chef’s tasting room, a shopping emporium by Moss, the Manhattan design mecca, and two glamorous flanking dining areas where Andrés has poured everything he knows about tapas into a menu that marries regional culinary traditions with his formidable creativity…

There’s an even wider selection of fresh inventions that elevates the honored tradition of bar snacks to new heights. Like: liquefied mozzarella with brussels-sprout leaves and the most intensely sweet cherry tomato you’ve ever popped in your mouth — perfect as the milky cheese flows over your tongue. A Philly cheesesteak made with wagyu beef in “air bread” like a tiny calzone, a crisp crust around a pocket of air and melted cheddar — the coolest-ever sublimation of an American sandwich.

Read more from Esquire

The liquid olives, dry ice caipirinha and the cotton candy margarita are fun too…

Il Pastaio

Just as good as anything I’ve ever enjoyed in Italy…

At Il Pastaio, brothers Celestino and Giacomino Drago spin the sort of culinary magic that’s made their whole family famous in Southern California. Working with the freshest pastas and produce, the chefs prepare antipasti, duck ragout, and penne with swordfish to please even the most discerning palates. Risottos are abundant and always unique, and truffle-cheese fondue is an excellent choice for polishing off the evening.

Read more…

Beverly Hills Farmer’s Market

Midnight Muse

A late night visit turned into an impromptu photo shoot. My new business partner captured these images using a single Chinese ball lantern from Ikea:

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The Breath of a Hummingbird

Sauntering down the walk of fame
weaving through the tourist’s game
I reminisce about a lovers’ frolic
relived amidst last night’s twilight revelry

the whisper of the hummingbird’s wings
pulsating at 90 beats per second
remind me of a magical encounter
that until now I have left forgotten

The day before Valentine’s day I took my bike out for a Sunday jaunt from Westwood to Santa Monica. My plan was to go explore YogaWorks, a yoga studio from which I had recently purchased a Groupon deal. After touring the yoga haven, I lingered… asking the attendant questions; enjoying a relaxing Sunday.

Tap tap tap…

The light beat came from the adjacent sun room. We peeked inside to discover a humming bird confused by the glass, frantically charging the clear panes in its desperate attempt to escape. “Oh no!” I lamented. “The poor thing looks like it’s going to have a heart attack. We have to help it escape!” Eying it’s sharp beak charging the window, I grabbed a soft pillow for protection and gently attempted to coax the little fluster of a hummingbird toward he open doorway in the opposite corner. Little by little I inched the little bird closer, but with each second he flew more frantically than the last, charging the panes with growing furor. Fearful he would die of fright, I dropped the pillow and, for the first time in this life, I witnessed a hummingbird stop. He landed on the sill and rested.

“Have you ever seen a hummingbird not flying?” I marveled in surprise.

Tap tap tap…

In the blink of an eye, the hummingbird was back to its frantic charge. Poised to lose ground we had already accomplished, I jumped up again with the pillow to keep coaxing the little guy toward his escape. Throughout the ordeal, he rested three more times before we could finally reveal to him his way out. The last time, he was so exhausted that his little head rested, tilted upon the glass; a tiny fog rising from it’s beak, clouding the window pane. A foggy cloud of hummingbird’s breath on the window pane. Alarmed… but enchanted! I had witnessed the breath of a tiny little hummingbird! To our delight, he escaped shortly thereafter. We watched him streak across the street and land in a tree… free at last.

Whimsical Weekend

The location of the wedding I shot Saturday (03.12.11). It looks like a cottage out of a fairytale. © Laura McNamara

This past Saturday I shot a cute little wedding at a lovely little house with my new business partner. I’m eager to share the news about “business partner” but still not quite ready to yet. So more wedding photos and more news to come!!

I spent Sunday afternoon in Shirley Temple‘s former house. The house is now home to Joe Bologna and Renée Taylor and the family was celebrating Renée’s birthday. One of my closest friends here in LA is their son. I really can’t say enough about his spirit for life and his open generosity to share that spirit with others. As with all Italian gatherings, the house was full and the food was delicious: anitpasiti of prosciutto and melon, Parmesan with truffles, tomato, mozzarella and basil, and more. We also had a delicious salad with chocolate orange vinaigrette along with homemade stone oven pizzas… my tummy was happy.

So between the wedding at the fairytale cottage and the old Hollywood celebrity birthday party I had quite the surreal and enchanting weekend!

The Itch, The Fever Call It What You May But I’ve Got to Go Far and Away & The Truth About L.A.

Yesterday marked my 6th month anniversary in Los Angeles… already? That was fast…

I woke today with a familiar energy; eyes popping wide open. I’ve been logging deep sleep but not long hours. Too much buzz coursing through my body. In fact, the past three mornings have been the same. Getting to bed around 1 a.m. Flashing awake by 7 a.m.

The last time I felt so much energy was while I was living in Playa del Carmen, MX…

Huh. A good sign, I mused to myself… noting the new boost. Exited, I thought: Okay, perhaps LA is really going to come together for me. Perhaps this IS where I’m supposed to be.

HA!

Okay. Prepare yourself now. I’ll be pouring the “wine” for the next few paragraphs. So do yourself a favor and go grab some cheese.

I’ve already mentioned my dissatisfaction with L.A. My nickname for the “city of angels” is “the slum of smoke and mirrors.” In all honesty, there are gems here. But you really have to dig to find them. At least, that’s my experience. And, I certainly love digging up the treasure buried amidst the trash, but the absolute truth is… I’m negligibly inspired here. That’s a far cry from my norm. Usually, I’m brimming over with inspiration, adventure, discovery, joy, love… the list of sappy, fairytale wonderland adjectives goes on. But here? There’s something here… beyond the surface even… that, more alarming than leaving me uninspired, downright disturbs me. I can’t quite put into words what it is, but if I did I would have to borrow the lyrics from the Big Yellow Taxi from the Counting Crow Hard Candy album (and really they borrowed the lyrics from Joni Mitchell):

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot… They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. They took all the trees and put em up in a tree museum. And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see them.”

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What’s worse… it seems like everyone believes it’s paradise. The black top of tar is what everyone exclaims is paradise. “They” all squabble over the slightest centimeter of it… charging a millionaire’s salary for one little sq cm. You, ahem, may think I’m exaggerating… I’m not. I just passed a complex on my walk home from the semi-ritzy neighborhood of Brentwood to the partially-ritzy, partially student, partially Asian neighborhood of Westwood, where I now “live” (getting to why I was walking not biking in a minute). A two-bedroom loft in an ‘eh decent enough’ building choked by cement blocks on all sides goes for… drum roll please… not $300,000, not $400,000… can we get a $550,000 dollars please!! Oh yes, centimeters here are damn expensive. Please, pardon my French…
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