Looking Back, 5

A re-printing of “April 12th to April 18th Prague Journal Entries” (THURSDAY, AUGUST 2, 2007)

So, I’ve decided to go back in time. Just a little jump back to April of 2007 when I went to the Czech Republic for eleven days. For a brief moment, I tried to keep a journal while I was in Prague; however, I found myself enjoying my time there far too much to write. (Note: This is a two part journal entry and my April 10th Entry is posted before this one, so you might want to read that one first.)

April 12th, 2007

So, life is on hold for I am in the Czech Republic, which is quite far away from Los Angeles. I have left so much behind me. I don’t want to go back. Not yet. Not now. Not today.

I feel that life is also beginning anew. That a chapter has been finished and life is starting a fresh, like spring. Oh life, what do you have in store for me? Will I be ready to go back to Los Angeles on the 18th? What is it that makes me want to return? I have a short film that I want to do… Part of me feels like eleven days is not enough. I wish I could rent a flat here and stay for a month or even longer. I like that idea: going somewhere and renting a place for a couple months while I explore, write… And part of me likes the idea of living here in the future.

Prague is so beautiful. It is a magical wonderland. I’ve written to Mother and some friends. I love it here. I’m a bit nervous to be on my own in Prague (as I am now) but I like the city’s vibe very, very much. I think I’m going to get a phone while I am here. To be in contact with Tara and Jaime.

Here are some photographs from that day:

April 13th, 2007

I was walking down an archway and realized that there was a couple behind me. Quickly I stepped to my right and let them pass while taking my camera out and snapped a photograph of them.

April 14th, 2007

Reading the entries before this, I know that it was a good idea to come to Prague, because I feel re-energized.

Jaime, Jack and I walked up to Petrin Hill to met everyone. We had seen Tara the night before with her boyfriend, Steve, and their friend, Rian, who are here to shoot Rian’s movie, “Brother’s Bloom.” I was excited to see Miss. Tara, who is the instigator of this trip; the author; the reason why I ever flew across the Altantic on a whim. “I’ll be there. Why don’t we meet up?”

And boy was it a whim. I remember sitting in the Pig as we looked at plane tickets online for her. We started talking about how much fun it would be if I met up with her. I thought, “Oh, I don’t know. Would everyone be weirded out if I showed up? I only know Jaime…’

But it was fun just talking about it, but then she said, “Well, are you going to buy a ticket? You should fly British Airways. I am.” I thought about it for a couple days. Should I jump on a plane and go to Prague? I thought about going for a week, while Tara was there, but then I decided if I was to go that I’d extend my stay to eleven. I hoped Jaime would be alright with it, which she was when I asked. I have a place to stay. I have the money for the ticket. What was stopping me?

Fear.

But I picked up my cell, called up my Mother’s travel agent and got a good deal on a flight. Bam! I had my ticket in a matter of minutes. I was going to Prague. Holy cow! (However, I might just purchase the ticket myself next time, unless I do a combination of flights.)

Jaime, Jack and I met up with Tara and the crew up on top of Petrin Hill. We all took out our cameras and started taking photographs of the hillside – beautiful white flowered trees peppering the hill with a devastatingly beautiful view of Prague and the Castle. One of the most beautiful views I’ve seen in a long time.

The View From On Top of Petrin Hill

When the film changed locations, Tara and I left Petrin Hill. We took the “trolley” – it’s not really a Trolley, but some space like ride – down the hill and walked past a statue that Jaime had pointed out to me the other day. Not knowing its name, I dubbed it the “Freedom from Communism” statue. (I seem to remember that Jaime said it was called something like that.)

It’s beautiful and affects me differently than most tourists, who have never lived in a Communist Country. If you have any experience with Communism, you’ll be affected. What affected me so much about the statues was that it shows a man walking OUT of Communism. As he moves forward, he becomes more and more of a whole human being. The last man is half a man, while the man upfront is whole. Stunning!

“Freedom From Communism”

Close up of Man

Thursday we spent all day at the Charles Bridge while they shot and Tara and I snuck into the Old Town Square on several occasions. We found a health food store in one of the alleys and would periodically return to it for food. That night a group of us went to a fabulous restaurant called Pravda. It was a wonderful night out. There was a table of maybe ten of us and we sat around laughing and talking and were just in a jolly good mood.

Old Town Square

Yesterday, Tara and I hung around Wenceslas Square (Vaclavski Namesti) and Old Town Square. On my way to meet her, I took the tram from Jaime and Jack’s flat to the metro. I had to change from, I think, the yellow to the green line in order to get off at “Museum” stop. Unsure of exactly where I was going, I saw an older woman standing by what I thought was the train going to “Museum.” So I decided to approach her and ask her directions… This is how it went, sort of…

– “Dobrý den.” I said and I could tell immediately that she knew I was a foreigner. Although my Russian accent is quite good, it did not help me in Praha.

– “Dobrý den.” She said with a smile.

– I pointed to the train, or rather in the direction of where the train would be pulling up to let passengers on, and said “Museum, yo?”

– “Yo.” She nodded. Great I was at the right spot!

– “Děkuji.” I said and nervously walked a couple feet away in order to wait for the train.

Although that conversation was made up of six little words, I did it all in CZECH! Ha!

So, as I floated on my “I spoke six words of Czech and asked for directions” cloud, Tara and I roamed around the Vaclavski Namesti and found our way to Kafka’s house, which is in Old Town Square. Not much to see in there sadly.

Looking at Jaime and Jack’s Prague Travel book, I’ve covered the majority of the bases. Maybe I should walk around and take pictures.

April 18th, 2007

I spent yesterday walking through Josofov with Jaron, the 2nd Unit Director of Photography. Great guy! We saw the Spanish Synagogue – where I started to cry, because it was just that beautiful. I was in Josfov ten years ago, when I traveled to Europe with my parents – and remember it quite well. It is, by far, my favorite part of Praha.

Josofov Street

Met up with Kevin and Jessica. We made our way back into the Old Town Square where we went to the Mucha and Dali exhibits. The arwork was placed in different rooms of what could have been someone’s large apartment. I wish I had a photograph of the view from one of the rooms overlooking the square as the sun came down over the darker of the two churches.

Afterwards, Wade, Jaron and I had drinks in Vysherad as the sun set over Prague and then he had Thai with a group of people from the film…

Sunset from Vysherad

A photograph I had to take. It was like he was begging me to take it.

I do love Prague. While they were shooting at the Hotel Praha yesterday, I had a talk with Kevin, who said something very inspiring: Watching Rian do his film inspired Kevin to follow his filmmaking dream. As I thought about what Kevin had said, a strong feeling came over me. I am not truly happy in Los Angeles. I want to be somewhere that makes me as happy as Prague makes Jaime. I want to wake up excited about where I live.

But something else Kevin said made an impact as well. Rian was following his dream. We were witnessing his dream come true, after all his hard work. Rian inspired me through example. And so, standing on the back patio of the Hotel Praha, I picked up my phone and called my Mother and told her that I had made the big decision to move to New York or London in 1 to 2 years. When I told Jaron, he said to do it in 1 1/2 years and to make a date… which would be September 1, 2008.

You have to believe in yourself. I have to stop questioning and wondering and worrying and just know that it will be beautiful and good.

Los Angeles, Je t’aime, aussi.

The Beauty of Beachwood Drive

The weather. Certainly one’s affinity for a city cannot be based on the weather forecast; however, if you poll most Angelenos, you may find that the sunshine ranks high on their list of reasons for living in (and loving) Los Angeles. Perhaps most of those people are transplants from Ohio or Colorado or New England – as I am – but even some locals remain due to cloudless afternoons and respectably warm nights.

It doesn’t mean that LA doesn’t get chilly. But that’s just it. Chilly. One rarely hears the world “cold” without a trace of a sarcastic smirk. My friends in Boston suffer through 20-degree winters, while I enjoy a 75-degree December. I cannot complain. I should never complain.

Paris, 2009

I do desire to spend my warm late-spring to early-fall days strolling down Saint-Germain-des-Prés – as the city of Paris has claimed part of my heart – but I have recently realized that I want to spend my cooler months in a more forgiving climate. I have momentarily considered the Mediterranean… but my thoughts always return to Los Angeles and my little 1920s Hollywood Bungalow that sits at the base of the Hollywood Hills.

Every day, as I walk out of my house, the Hollywood Sign greets me. I look up my street and I see the clear blue sky, trees and hills surrounding those tall white letters. I have a wildlife playground – with hiking trails and dog parks – only a few steps away from my front door. At the top of Beachwood, I run under a canopy of trees while passing beautiful old homes that have history and have seen Hollywood grow up around them.

A Canopy of Trees

Sometimes in the early morning, I will run up and down my street and my neighbors will say “good morning” as they too begin their day. As one passes other runners or walkers, we nod and smile at each other. This is part of our morning ritual. It’s as if we have a secret society.

The sense of neighborhood seems far greater here than in other parts of Los Angeles and this is one of the reasons I love to run up Beachwood and through the hills on Hollyridge Drive. There is a sense of community that is felt between strangers living on the same street, who are simply living out our lives in a warmer climate. The people here seem somewhat removed from the fast paced intensity of Hollywood. They have stopped and smelled the roses and have looked up to admire the clear blue sky above them. Maybe they are more aware of the World around them.

Beachwood Market & Square

I have only recently stopped to take a look at what I have around me. I have spent too many years wanting to be somewhere else. But when I run past my Great-Grandmother’s house on Canyon Drive – which is still covered with pretty, little fuchsia flowers – I see that my own history is visible here. I am the fourth generation to call Hollywood my home. Perhaps I don’t need to look for my place, because it was always waiting for me.

Looking Back, 4

A re-printing of “April 10th Prague Journal Entry”(WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2007)

I have successfully removed myself from my life in Los Angeles. I am in Prague. Can you hear the sigh of relief? Exhale.

Vysherad is beautiful. Jaime and I parted ways an hour ago – she had to go teach one of her classes – and I am sitting in Vysherad Fortress, having just gone into the gothic church and through a famous cemetery that has only artists buried in it. I loved walking through the cemetary, looking at all the writers, composers, artists. I saw Dvorak’s grave.

Picture of a sculpture in the Vysherad park

I always have the distinct feeling that I am going to get lost – very lost – but that also happens in my own backyard, which is part of the excitement of traveling. You may, and probably will, get lost. Very lost. But I love it when you realize that you are actually getting to know the city. As you walk down the same twists and turns of some back street over and over again, in whatever city you’re in, you are hit by the realization that YOU know your way around. You remember how to get to your destination. You’re getting to know the city!

I was walking to the Bohemian Bagel in the Old Town Square – great ex-pat restaurant with Internet – and a girl walked up to me and asked me if I knew where the Bohemian Bagel was. First off, I’m a quarter Bohemian – hence the blog title – which means my family is from Bohemia, which used to be a country that was made up of a part of the Czech Republic and part of Austria. My Father was also Russian, so I do look really Slovak. Like I might even belong here?

Anyway, the girl came up to me and asked if I knew where the restaurant was. I smiled and said, “I’m on my way there. I’ll take you.”

She was flabbergasted and we introduced ourselves. “My name’s Alexis,” I said, holding out my right hand.

She smiled and, shaking my hand, said: “Me, too.”

Imagine that! Two American girls. In Prague. On their way to check their e-mail at the Bohemian Bagel. And we’re both named Alexis.

Side note: I’m not the type of American that makes a beeline for the American Restaurant in a foreign country. I’m actually quite the opposite, but my computer was not hooking up to the Internet and I needed to check my e-mail. And I had already tried to check my e-mail at three different cafés before this encounter…

We walked to the restaurant and checked our e-mails. Well, she was actually signing up for classes at Boston University. Again! BU. I told her I had lived in Beacon Hill for three years while I finished up my degree at Emerson College. I had gone to Denison University for the first two years, but nearly went insane in the conservative Ohio town of Granville. I quickly moved back home to Newport, Rhode Island, for 6 months and then started back at College in January.

[Break from writing… cue Elevator music.]

So, I have left Vysherad and I am sitting in another Internet café, waiting for Jaime to finish her second class of the day. I just smiled at the waiter and said “Dobre Den. ” (Hello in Czech and strangely enough nearly the same in Russian. But that doesn’t help, since the two languages are rather different and no one likes Russians here. Again, thank goodness I am a quarter Bohemian.)

Anyway, I just ordered my latte (with regular milk, oh my) and here I am writing again. Right now, I am doing fabulously… I am loving Prague. It is of course sooo very beautiful. There are parts of the city that I do remember from my trip here ten years ago, but most of the time it is like I’ve never been here. Jamie, Jack and I spent yesterday walking around the city taking pictures. We went to the Charles Bridge and parts of Old Town and had coffee in a couple different cafes and wound up going to see the movie “300” in a cinema here. I can’t believe I saw “300” in PRAGUE!

Picture of a picturesque street in gorgeous Prague

Jaime and Jack are in such a beautiful flat here and I have a lovely little bed to sleep on… I was very, very tired after walking around the city from about 11 am to 6 pm yesterday. I am sleeping on two lovely little comfy mattresses that are piled on top of each other. And I have a nice comforter and a pillow. I am very, very comfortable at night. They live in a loft. With hardwood floors. And a beautiful view of the tops of buildings and a big hill – Petrin Hill – that I guess is part of a park that we’ve walked past a couple times.

It’s good to see my friend Jamie. I guess you could safely say that she is an ex-pat. I have an ex-pat friend… How very, very interesting… Also, story wise… Being here makes me think of a film I wanted to write and shoot in London (when I’m a little older than I am now) that I’ve been throwing around in my head for almost twelve years. This city makes me think and dream.

Think and dream. What a wonderful feeling. To be somewhere that makes me inspired. I wonder how I can keep that feeling going… It’s like I need a constant change of environment to ignite this feeling. It’s like needing a fix. I could move to London and I’d have a great jump off place to travel from and if (or when) I want to settle down for a period of time, take a break if you will, I can just go back to London… How do I do THAT?

Jaime is in love with Prague, so I am happy that she found some place that she is in love with and happy everyday to be in… She is thrilled here and has been here two years, but it’s like each day is her first… “Isn’t this a beautiful place to live?” every morning… She walks out the door and says “Oh shut up, stupid Prague” as the puffy white clouds quickly move through the clearest blue sky… and she beams. She beams with happiness here.

I want to beam with happiness.

100/70

One may wonder – having read “Looking Back, 3” – about the reasons that I did not move to London in late-2008. Perhaps I should have. Perhaps I should have packed up my Franklin Village apartment, put all my belongings into storage and moved. Perhaps I should have been stronger and more focused on fulfilling my dreams. Perhaps I stayed, because I knew I was not ready to leave. I knew that I had to keep trying at this. Perhaps those are the reasons I stayed. And perhaps part of the reason was my heart.

And in turn, I lost my focus. There was a part of me that gave in. It does not take up too much room in my body. It is trapped inside my rib cage. Its blood pressure is 100/70. However, it did not give in to the hardships of this town and it’s industry. Not to all the negative and jealous voices. Not to those whispers that say I’m not good enough. Not to those words and lies that –in the end – mean nothing. It simply gave itself away.

It gave itself away and, in doing so, I lost my concentration. I lost the razor sharpness of my focus. I lost my way. It may be the reason I have not left yet, but it is not the reason I stayed. I did not stay here for it. I have remained in Los Angeles in order to continue pursuing my dreams. I have remained, because I am not ready to leave. And this is why I can live with it.

In losing my focus, I did not keep my eye on the road. Perhaps I chose to see what I wanted to see. Perhaps we ignore the warning signs along the highway that say “Road Washed Out,” “Construction Ahead” or “Detour.” We simply continue driving and suddenly end up in a rough, uncomfortable position. And then we see the World around us clearly for the first time in days, months, even years.

And we suddenly wonder about how we got there. And all we have to do is turn around and see that we were never paying attention to the road we were on. Perhaps we should have veered off on Exit 46A, but we were too busy staring at a love that never really loved us back.

I had written once that: “Life makes unexpected twists and turns when you least expect it.” It does and it is up to us to handle the turns. We trust our suspension and breaks. We trust that this body that will keep us safe. Sometimes one must remain a little longer in one place in order to finally gain the freedom to truly leave. I will make the most I can of it here. Standing in the rubble, I can renew my sense of purpose. In a city that does not have my heart.

Looking Back, 3

A re-printing of “The Life Worth Living: Deadline for London, September, 2008”(TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2007)

My friend, Steve, is driving to Colorado from Texas right now. He’s on the road at this very moment and I’ve spoken to him several times already on the phone today – he’s bored and I’m hyper – but as we talk he’s occasionally exclaims: “Wow, that’s beautiful.”

Life makes unexpected twists and turns when you least expect it. It’s like driving down a highway – a 100 mile straight shot – and all of a sudden you find yourself winding through a forest in the mountains. Or you see something you have to stop and take pictures of – a dilapidated red barn, a lake that stretches on for miles… What was once a boring, repetitive drive through a barren monotone wasteland becomes a trip where it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road.

I have been driving in this one direction for several years – almost six in Los Angeles – trying to make something of myself. And I am fine with this fight to become a filmmaker. I am not tired of that, but what I am tired of is not being invigorated by my surroundings.

Jaime is in love with Prague. She adores her adopted city. Every day she says things like, “Look at this place! God, it’s ugly, isn’t it? I hate Prague. Hate it.” And she adorably stands there, smiling ear to ear, surrounded by beautiful architecture that she sees every day when she walks out her front door. She’s completely IN LOVE with her city and everything it entails.

Life is too short to not love the place you’re in. I want my life to be filled with the urge to take your eyes off of the road ahead of you. I’m going to be thirty soon and my tolerance for the unimportant, the uninteresting, and the unremarkable – in things, places and especially people (although I do have wonderful friends here) – is beginning to weaken. My patience is wearing thin.

What re-kindled that spark in me that almost made me move to London last October? I had written an e-mail to Gary, who is now back in his home in France, and I wrote this:

“So I’m terribly jealous of you right now, because I know you are probably sitting in some wonderful French villa in your beautiful town enjoying a glorious day. And if it’s raining, it’s still perfect compared to LA.”

What I got in return inspired me greatly: “Yeah, life is good here right now. Makes me wonder why someone like you hasn’t ever found her way to London? Seems like it would be more your style, and there’s a film business there as well.”

Well, it is definitely more my style… Do I really have an excuse – besides the shitty American dollar, no working visa, no way to make a living and my battle for a film career – for not moving there?

I can’t help, but think of that annoying voice that has been repeating the same old tired record in my head since college:

“Hey. You want to live in London. You have since you were ten. What if you die tomorrow? Could you live with yourself? Would you feel that life had disappointed you? Did YOU disappoint yourself? You think about your amazing childhood all the time. You compare your present life with the memories of being overseas all the time. It eats away at you. You want the Life Worth Living. You ache to experience life to the fullest! But, dear girl, you won’t be able to do it while you are in Los Angeles, let alone America. Instead, you’ve stayed in a city that made you jaded, discontented and bored. Good job, kid.”

When I was in London last, in 1999, I would walk around the city by myself, visiting the theatres, museums, restaurants and pubs, and the biggest complement I received was “Excuse me. I’m lost. How do I get to…” I was the most comfortable I have ever been in London.

So, today, I spoke to my friend, Heather, about how I want to move to London and she said she was toying with applying to a PhD program there. And that was it. She said she’ll apply and, if she got in, we would move there together. Next fall…

Regardless of whether or not she makes it to London, I am going to go. I will be almost thirty – the age I said I would finally move, regardless of what I’m doing, to London – and it will be the perfect time to make the leap.

JUMP!