Day Dates In Los Angeles

Day Dates In Los Angeles

“A sip of wine, a cigarette, And then it’s time to go. I tidied up the kitchenette; I tuned the old banjo. I’m wanted at the traffic-jam. They’re saving me a seat.” Leonard Cohen

L.A. is a car city. Most people drive; whether it’s to work or to grab a coffee at the Starbucks down the street. It doesn’t matter if your office is in walking distance, you’ll hop in your car to get there. Since everyone drives everywhere, LA traffic can turn a quick trip into a long commute.

Los Angeles had the world’s worst traffic in 2016  beating out Moscow for the top spot in the rankings released by traffic firm INRIX. According to the survey, Los Angeles motorists spent an average of 104 hours stuck in traffic last year. The worst traffic day is Friday.

I moved to the Venice Marina Del Rey area last summer if you did not read my sad moving blogs. My friends and family live on the other side of the 405 freeway. This means that the city’s congestion now confines me to my own area on week day evenings. Local neighborhoods have had to become more self-sufficient with interesting restaurants, bars, cultural and recreational sources as more and more  people do not want to sit in traffic to go out at night.

It’s traditional to make plans with people at night. I tried when I first moved here to continue to meet people during the week. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” I would say when I was in standstill traffic and knew it would be at least an hour. I would have to leave at four o clock for a seven o clock dinner. A two-hour dinner in town became a five-hour dinner with traffic and parking.

I began to only accept invitations to things I had to do – celebrations, rock concerts and a few events. I stopped going to the theatre, ballet and gallery openings downtown on week nights.  All these things were available on weekends. I started to stay home on weekday evenings unless people wanted to drive to the beach or at least to my side of the 405.  I blamed it on my puppy’s anxiety (which is sad but true). My friend’s and family did not want to make the drive here after the first new house inspection. Guys will do it.

 Recently I started making day dates with my friends on the other side of the 405 and the east side of town. If you go to a movie in a crowded mall on an afternoon, the theatre is empty. You can park on the first level and not spend a half hour getting out of the parking lot. The ridiculously crowded restaurants have plenty of space available. The concession stand is empty and will even make a fresh batch of popcorn or pot of coffee if you ask nicely. There are no lines for the bathroom. I do the weekend theatre matinees  downtown and have an early dinner to try a trendy downtown restaurant. Weekend brunches are my best friend though as it gets closer to the summer the traffic  near the beach will be a problem.  Lunch dates always work.  My friends aren’t thrilled with the new arrangement but they are doing it and agree it is relaxing and fun.

I am no longer losing entire days of my life sitting in traffic. There are plenty of other things I can do with those 104 hours.

Fly safe,


Learning Russian In America

Learning Russian In America

“It’s a plié. You do it on all the positions. It’s very good for dramatic moments.” Anne Ursu

It began with Whitney. She was a ten-year old girl with natural ballet ability who was impeccably trained. My daughter was a nine-year old dancer. “Go to Yuri,” Whitney’s mom said.

Yuri was Yuri Grigoriev, a Russian ballet teacher who taught an intermediate and advanced level adult ballet class. He allowed kids to attend if they could keep up. He spoke only in Russian.

This did not sound like good parenting to me. It was not an experience that would build positive self-esteem. Being taught by someone who did not teach in English with advanced adults in the class was not a recipe for building a good self-image. As far as I knew, if we as parents did not help our kids develop positive self images, they would probably end up on drugs robbing convenience stores.

My daughter became more focused on dance and she found herself in her first class with Yuri. She liked it. The adults were nice and she felt like she was learning. I asked if she understood him. She said yes. “But you don’t speak Russian?” Her reply was that it was not a problem.

Slowly Yuri developed a children’s program and in the years that we were there, I never heard one kid say they did not understand what he was teaching them. I didn’t understand him. I was always asking his wife Alexandra what he was saying. She ran his school and was his English.

He was teaching much more than ballet. Ballet was about movement and because the kids did not understand the words, they focused on watching him demonstrate the movement. They learned to stay in the present moment or they might miss something important. They watched his facial expressions and listened to his tone of voice. They began to use all their senses in communication. They also picked up many Russian words.

His students were developing an understanding of how to obtain knowledge from different cultures. There were things to learn from people who did not speak English. They became educated about the Russian ballet world and the famous Russian ballet dancers both past and present. When dancers came from Russia they would teach a class and pass on their dance knowledge. The dancers came from companies like the Bolshoi, Stanislavsky and the Kirov. These are amazing Russian companies and the students knew a lot about them.  No one taught in English. This had become the norm.

Yuri Grigoriev died suddenly. He now had his own ballet school with many girls. I have driven by it and seen the big sign in the front with his name on it.( I went to the funeral at a Russian Orthodox Church. It was of course in Russian. As usual with Yuri, I didn’t understand the words and I didn’t need to. Many people gave tributes to Yuri in English and in Russian. Many little girls got up tearfully saying he was a second father to them and talked about how much they loved him. I hadn’t seen him in over ten years and was impressed with the school that he and his wife Alexandra had built with hard work and dedication. I asked someone if Yuri had ever learned English. She said no. Yuri took his knowledge, talent and love of dance and turned it into something even more beautiful. He passed it on to future generations and he is a testament to the fact that love and art will always transcend our differences.

Fly safe Yuri