Portraiture Drop-in Class: Shelby

Wednesday night, Rick hosted a drop-in portraiture session at his studio on Pearl. Shelby was our gorgeous and gracious model, who worked effortlessly in front of the camera while eight photographers clicked away in an effort to capture her fierce femininity. Here are my favorite shots from that night. 

FebruCali Road Trip: SoCal + the Journey Home

"It's really about tapping into the divine feminine and allowing her energy to fuel my creative flow. That and oxygenation, of course," Leigh gestures toward the open sliding glass door leading to a rooftop patio, inhaling deeply through his nose. I study his profile while he gazes out, sweat dripping from his hairline down the side of his neck, his eyes wide and bright. "I see," I say, following his gaze out. It's hot up here. 

I've been in Malibu less than an hour, and I'm standing in the second-floor art studio in Leigh McCloskey's home perched in the hills above Zuma Beach. Leigh is a longtime neighbor and acquaintance of my friend Anndrea, and he regularly hosts workshops in his downstairs living room. Today, a bioenergetics professional is giving a talk on (and I quote) "HOW TO ACCESS WHAT YOU NEED FOR A SHIFT OR A CHANGE IN EVERY DAY LIFE CONCERNS AND CONDITIONS, BECAUSE IT’S ALL AVAILABLE." While the attendees check in downstairs, Leigh is giving an enthusiastic tour to his guests. I snap a few shots, give my thanks, and scoot out before the workshop begins, nearly swatting Leigh's freshly polished 911 with my camera bag as I hoof barefoot back to my car. #onlyinmalibu

I mentioned in my earlier post that the week in the 'Bu was gearing up to be the quiet, insular second chapter of my FebruCali trip, and that prediction proved correct, cosmic art studio tours aside. Client work was at an all-time high, and my days were filled with assignments, projects, and Slack chats. At dusk, I'd shut my laptop and walk up to the Zuma Canyon trailhead, where I'd spend an hour trotting through the dusty hills in silence, the light changing to a dim gold as the sun dipped behind the Santa Monica Mountains. At night, I'd make a modest meal and watch my favorite game show trilogy: Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. At one point, I hadn't spoken a word to anyone in 36 hours, other than shouting answers at the TV. 

Midweek, I met up with client-friends Sean and Debbie, who were also visiting Malibu. We sipped chai lattes on the patio outside Cafecito Organico, wearing our sunglasses to hide eyes primed for celeb-spotting. (Nobody. Pffft.) Debbie and I bonded over our shared HSP self-diagnoses, a love for alone time, an intolerance for rudeness and noise, and a shared notion that life is made up of a series of choices. Meanwhile, Sean rolled his eyes at us and delivered his well-researched and terrifyingly insightful theory on how Donald Trump—whether we like it or not—will be our next president. Then we called dibs on which remote islands in the South Pacific we'll be moving to. 

My birthday was Thursday. I mentioned in an Instagram post my mental wrestlings with birthday expectations in years past, and how that need for controlled merriment was all a big waste of time and energy. This year, I put that energy into a morning hike through Charmlee Wilderness Park, where the chalky and oak-dotted coastal slope spills into the Pacific Ocean. Late that afternoon, Anndrea invited me to sit on her porch to listen to her play a Debussy piano piece she’s working on, "Gardens in the Rain." As I sat in her frayed wicker chair, the light began to change, turning everything to a fiery, gilded orange. I could hear the waves crashing down on Zuma Beach and the birds singing, readying for a night's sleep in the trees. "This. This!" I thought to myself with watery eyes, "Is one of the magic moments." A beachside burger and fries at the Carbon Beach Club topped off the day. There, I chatted with James, my waiter, about his part-time helicopter pilot gig and just how many jobs it takes—even those as lofty as a helicopter pilot—to support a family of five in the L.A. area. 

After Malibu, I headed south once again, this time to San Clemente, gritting my teeth through the 5's Friday afternoon traffic. SoCal's Mexican food alone makes a move incredibly tempting, but I will never, ever accept sitting in a car on a freeway for hours each day. By my arrival in San Clemente on Friday evening, I was road-weary and beginning to enter the third and final chapter of the trip. Plans were wrapping up, meetings in Boulder were being scheduled, and my dirty laundry bag was starting to overflow: It was time to head home. 

My last adventure was on Saturday, when I explored the dark nooks and crannies of San Juan Capistrano, the Disneyland of all the California Missions. Its grounds are immaculate and the structures are crumbly and cozy and charming. However, the more I learn about the California Missions, the more I realize the grim truths surrounding their fabled legacies. Brutal, oppressive injustice was the norm and cultural genocide was the result, all to spread a "good word" that doesn't seem like such a good word to begin with. Helpless guilt and tormented morals aside, I enjoyed my afternoon taking photos, dodging out of those of others, and catching quite the farmer's tan. My last night in California, I sat bar-side at South of Nick's, ate shrimp tacos, and drank tequila neat before going home to watch an O.J. Simpson trial exposé. 

And this is really where the story ends. My trip home was quick and uneventful, although I have to give a quick shoutout to the beautiful Laguna Mountains, which lie just East of San Diego and make for some gorgeous (and empty!) mid-morning driving. After overnight stops in Tucson and Santa Fe, I arrived home tired, clear-headed, and ready for more. And who's to say I won't be back in another five months? After all, life's just a series of choices. And I'm the lucky chooser.


FebruCali Road Trip: The Central Coast

First, a climatological observation: I've been spoiled for life by California's, ahem, "winter weather." Sunny, 80-degree days and cool nights perfect for sleeping with the windows open make me wonder why we choose to let snow, ice, and single digits even be options. Life, folks. It's all about choices. And climate's one of them. 

I'm beginning to think of this trip in two chapters. In the first chapter, I was the fastidious house guest, washing my way through after-dinner dishes, picking up forgotten items at the store, folding laundry, and staying well out of my hosts' way. There's a Benjamin Franklin quote that goes something like, "Two things start to stink after three days: fish and houseguests." This maxim is seared into my gray matter and makes me hyper-paranoid about being a rancid, past-her-welcome freeloader. Ellen repeatedly scoffed at my fretting, but I did what I could to remain virtually untraceable nonetheless, especially if I wasn't doing anything of any use to anyone.

But another feature of being a house guest is regularly being in the company of others. While I'm blabbing incessantly about this trip being a "solo trip," up until 36 hours ago it really wasn't. I was almost always in good company, whether it was for a few hours in the morning before a work session or over a meal after the day was done. In the past two weeks, I've done more talking than I have in I don't know how long, and more visiting than any other trip in recent history. This proves to be a sweet, fizzy tonic for the traveler's soul, especially when visiting with the likes of intelligent, witty, talented, vibrant friends like mine. 

While I'm hardwired to recount my days like diary entries, I'll spare you the tedious details. I will, however, give you nugget-sized bullet points that are easier on the digestion: 

  • San Juan Bautista, where I cruised the Mission, bought antique earrings, met a few interesting characters, and ate fish tacos so good, they rivaled the many fish tacos I ate in Mexico. (Please don't tell Mexico or their tacos.) 
  • Big Basin, California's oldest state park, where gorgeous old-growth redwoods mingle with other interesting flora. Beware, if you go on Valentine's Day, be prepared to hike—and park—with the rest of the Bay Area. 
  • Wilder Ranch, another California state park, where I spent an hour and a half thinking my Nikon had bit the big one. Luckily, a stuck shutter is common and easily fixed. Unluckily, a stuck shutter and no cell service means no pictures. Funny aside: I dubbed this gorgeous strip of California coastline Grumbling-Couples-Ride-Bikes-on-Valentine's-Day Park. My favorite overheard exchange:
    • Her: "I don't like you riding behind me! You're too close!" 
    • Him: "God! Sorry! Fine, I'll ride in front." 
    • Her: "No, because then I'll have to keep up with you!"
    • Him: "This was a great idea." 
  • Santa Cruz, a great city that mixes the grit of Portland with the uppity weirdness of Boulder and stirs it all together with a heaping dose of California surf + skate culture. Great food (don't miss Laili for delicious Afghani fare), great street art, great buskers, great vibe. Santa Cruz, if I ever consider getting my master's, I'll definitely hit you up. 
  • Muir Woods National Monument, where time stops and nature pulls you in for a really intense therapy session. Go when you have a full day to explore. And get the grilled cheese and tomato soup at the Trading Post; it's as good as Tyler Florence says it is. 
  • Belvedere-Tiburon, a cute-as-a-button town that looks west over Richardson Bay toward Sausalito. Emily was house-sitting here, and I got to stay a night at her ridiculously swanky digs. Special bonus points for our fascinating chat with Jeff, a retired lawyer who schooled us on life, love, and Belvedere-Tiburon hot tub parties of the 1970s, all because we stopped to look at the view. 
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea, a town straight out of Tolkien's field notes. Ellen and I stayed at Baba's Cottage, a sweet two-room affair that's a time capsule from 1965. It was just like camping, only cuter. And with a space heater. And plumbing. 

So back to this two-chapter idea. After leaving Carmel yesterday morning, I zipped down the 101 with my sights set on Malibu, which brings us to the present day and the beginning of the second chapter of this trip. I'm here alone for the week, staying in my usual Zuma digs with my lovely friend and hostess, Anndrea. Then it's further south to San Clemente for a handful of nights before heading east through the blooming desert and home to the Rocky Mountain foothills. 

For the remainder of this trip, I'm alone—and if the past 36 hours are any indication, it's going to be a quiet, insular chapter. I've gone out once for groceries, and spent the rest of my time on the trails, in a book, or writing for clients. I haven't even put makeup on yet. This is where I draw upon my reserves of motivation and socialization, reminding myself to look up, get out, and be a functioning member of society. But only when I really want to, and only when there's dessert involved.