Marissa Jean grew up! My shy, quiet, little niece is now a take-charge young woman and I could not be more proud.
We made arrangements for a visit since we were within striking distance – me in Green Valley Lake; her in Los Angeles. So, my place or yours? As beautiful as Green Valley Lake is, there is not much going on, but still it would be a nice spot for a weekend visit for Auntie Carole Jean and the beautiful Marissa Jean. She was willing to make the two-hour drive as long as she could bring Billie, her elderly rescue chihuahua.
“Auntie, I don’t mind driving to the cabin, but it has to be before mid-September. I’m going to sell my car then and focus on making my photo book (She does superb Pet Photography http://deladoggies.com/). I don’t need the car here. My loft is in the heart of the city, I have to pay to park in a garage several blocks away and it’s an expense I don’t need right now.”
And a plan was hatched! I had just moved back to the U.S. and needed a car. When I asked the price of the 2010 Honda Civic Coupe, it was exactly the amount I had budgeted for a car purchase. And exactly the kind of car I had before I moved to Costa Rica. Sold! I booked a cheap car rental online and Toby, my extra-large Chocolate Lab, and I drove from Lake Havasu City, Arizona where I was visiting a friend, to Los Angeles. California, here we come!
As we entered the force-field of the inner city, my pulse quickened and I felt myself shift into “City Mode.” Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, there is a certain way of conducting oneself in a city so as not to give the appearance of being an easy target for the unsavory characters that prey on the weak and naive. We don’t walk so much as strut down the street with a confident air that says, “Don’t mess with me, dude!”
Once in the sanctity of Marissa’s apartment, that tough veneer melted away, and we giggled like the two little girls we both are at heart. “Auntie! It’s so good to have you here. I have a surprise for you. Come this way!”
She led me to an old fashioned window looking out onto the street. As she pushed the bulky, wooden frame up, I saw the familiar metal of a fire escape; the iron slats zig-zagging, down the outside of the building, reminiscent of the buildings, where I grew upin New York. As she raised the heavy window, my eyes landed on a colorful carpet laying on the cold metal. Placed on the rug was a cozy arrangement of two chairs with a cheerful red table in the center. With her eyes twinkling, she said, “Follow me.” She climbed through the window, I followed, well, crawled on all fours, and was transported into a magical bubble sitting on top of the city. She poured Chardonnay into crystal glasses, and my joy rendered me speechless. Marissa was all grown up, and generously hosting me in her world.
And that was just the beginning. Marissa showed me the ropes of her city routine. Like me, she prefers to work independently at an unconventional job that brings adventure and surprise into each day. Like me, she tried the corporate avenue with the steady paycheck. It works for a while. And then we reach the breaking point and we burst out of the chains and do something more suited to our personalities.
Marissa walks dogs. She is good at it and the pet owners know their precious ones are in excellent hands. She bikes from client to client with her first walk starting with her own Billie, named after the sultry singer, Billie Holiday (I can see a resemblance), at 6:00 a.m. She works long, hard hours and has become well known in the downtown circles. She heartily greets doormen, executives, homeless people, and other dog-walkers. With the preciseness of a prestidigitator, she whisks up the doggy doo-doos, barely breaking stride. She’s got this down!
There was no shortage of fun. We went to her favorite restaurants, nightclubs, even a Mexican dance hall where we surprised a few locals by dancing Cumbia, Salsa, and Merengue like we knew what we were doing – which we did! We partied with the best of ’em and paid the price the next day.
There’s nothing like sweating it out at the local YMCA which happened to be one of the most luxurious gyms I have ever been to – and I have been to quite a few! When I heard we were going to the “Y”, I pictured some seedy, run-down building with depressing equipment. Instead, I was treated to a brand new facility with an Olympic pool, gorgeous state-of-the-art everything, and several levels of clean, modern facilities including an indoor track and basketball court. I could have spent days in there, but, alas, there were pooches to walk, and outdoor cafés from which to people-watch.
When we weren’t dining out, we would just grab quick bites in between activities. At one point, I looked up from my ever-present laptop and there was Marissa grabbing a snack over the sink, “Ha!” I cried. “That’s what I do! We’re single. Single people eat over the sink!” And we laughed ourselves silly.
Me? I just wanted to get back to the fire-escape, sip a little Chardonnay, and enjoy the slice of life that is La-La Land!