Friday, April 30, 2010

Suburban Dream



I recently stumbled across the song “Suburbia” by The Pet Shop Boys. The song first caught my attention because of its title: Suburbia. It’s a word I’ve been both directly and indirectly discussing and writing about for the past few months, but when I really sat down and thought about it, I don’t think I really even know what suburbia is.

Is suburbia simply a level between the city and the rural? Or is it a way of life?

Is it full of stepford wives and corporate husbands? Or is it a place that blue-collar workers and pregnant teens call home?

Can suburbia house scandal? Or is it a ‘clean cut’ place of safety?

Nonetheless, for me, suburbia has become a place of intrigue.

I looked to the Pet Shop Boys to gather some more answers about suburban nature, as the song “Suburbia” addresses these common assumptions and misconceptions about living in suburbia most specifically in the 1980s.

The Pet Shop Boys, who began their career in the early 1980s, are an English electronic dance (or pop) music duo. Neil Tennant is the main vocalist for the band, who occasionally plays the keyboard and guitar, while Chris Lowe plays the keyboard and occasionally does back-up vocals for the band. The Pet Shop Boys were a highly successful band recording number one songs such as “West End Girls”, “It’s a Sin”, “Heart” and “Always on my Mind” and have sold over 100 million records worldwide. Many have claimed that The Pet Shop Boys are one of the most successful pop music duos in history, and this accreditation can be validated by the recent award they received at the 2009 BRIT Awards, for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

The song “Suburbia” was first released on the album Please in March of 1986 and then rerecorded and released as a single in September of 1986. The words for “Suburbia” where inspired from the melodramatic punk movie that The Pet Shop Boys had watched also titled Suburbia. The film, produced in 1983, was written and directed by Penelope Spheeris. It depicted a group of rebellious punk youths living in violence and squalor in an abandoned suburb of Los Angeles.

In an interview talking about the newly re-mastered single, Tennant said, “I thought it was a great idea to write a song about suburbia and how it's really violent and decaying and a mess.”

Lowe wrote the music for the song, while Tennant wrote the lyrics. The song is highly electro-pop, with an upbeat tune inspired by Madonna’s “Into The Groove.” However, this upbeat pop bassline was complimented by sharply contrasting words such as:

“Break the window by the town hall
Listen, the siren screams
There in the distance, like a roll call
Of all the suburban dreams”


And

“I only wanted something else to do but hang around”


The bassline is also juxtaposed with sounds of suburban violence, including rioting noises, breaking glass, sirens and barking dogs. Tennant says, “The dogs in the song come totally from the packs of dogs in the film,” and in fact much of the images in the music video for the song were derived from scenes in the movie Suburbia.

In the interview Tennant continued, “It’s a hard lyric, soft tune. That was our idea-to write disco music with un-disco lyrics.”

It’s odd that a song inspired by a punk movie could so effectively translate into such a pop genre tune. It is interesting to think that a song can be about a group of people (punk rioters), who would absolutely hate the song if they ever heard it. I think that’s what makes it such an interesting song, because it asks people to look beyond outward appearances or in this case beyond the bassline tune. It so very clearly represents suburbia and how often times its appearance doesn’t match what goes on in the inside of the cookie cutter homes.

Tennant describes this idea, stating, “It's quite a theme in English art, literature and music, like in Graham Greene or Paul Theroux - that the suburbs are really nasty, that behind lace curtains everyone is an alcoholic or a spanker or a mass murderer.”

And as I have learned after observing Regis Way, this couldn’t be more than true. Often times the suburbs are plagued with scandal, for instance Mrs. Jones infidelity or the alcoholism of The Car Parked Outside.

In this case, the song represents a generation of youth, who although lived in suburbia were bored and desired to rebel and do something more than just ‘hang around’ as the lyric of the song so accurately states.

Tennant also explains that the song was also in part inspired by his recent dealings with the riots in 1981 and 1985 in England, in which the boredom of suburban teens in this area caused a tension between the English youth and authority, provoking violence in previously ritzy areas.

He says, “This was the era of the riots in Toxteth and Brixton. I remember some friends of mine having to drive through the riots in Brixton to visit me in Chelsea, and being scared. Brixton was a prosperous Victorian suburb, and eighty years later it had become this decaying inner city. And there was a feeling that the riots had been started by the police hassling these kids hanging around a bus stop.”

All in all, I have come to discover that the suburbia The Pet Shop Boys describe in their song is one that deeply contrasts from the suburbia I have experienced in Los Angeles. Moreover, I still can’t seem to find an exact meaning or definition that I can apply to the term suburbia.

After critiquing the Pet Shop Boys song “Suburbia” it seems that suburbia is all the things I questioned above. It is a place for stepford wives, corporate husbands, blue-collar workers and pregnant teens. It is a place that houses scandal and provides safety. But even more so it is a place where riots can occur, where boredom ensues, where presidents are born, and where drug addicts live.

Suburbia is all encompassing. It is forever changing and always different based on country, county, state, and/or city.

In the end, what I’m sure of is this: Regis Way is nothing like my suburban home in Arizona, a private community guarded by a gate that houses big homes with little to no front yard, it isn’t anything like Brixton, where riots arise and police roam the streets, and it does not resemble my childhood suburban home in Chicago, where the hilly grass stretches for miles, everyone’s backyard connects, and you never have to lock your door at night. No, Regis Way is not like any of these places.

Regis Way is unique in its own respect.

It is simply the place I call home.



interview source: http://www.petshopboys.net/index.shtml

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Perspective and The Car Parked Outside Part 3



This week I was fortunate enough to have an online chat with a fellow blogger, Nataly De La Pena and reader of Life on Regis Way.

We began our conversation discussing Nataly’s recent posting about the Catholic Church.

Nataly
One of my main arguments was that in order to really get to know a "different" place you must be open minded, it doesn’t just help to go to the place.
12:20am

Me
I completely agree. That's actually kind of great insight for me when I was critiquing manhattan beach
12:22am

Nataly
i guess it sort of got inspired from the journals that we read about the two girls in east l.a.
12:22am

Me
because they just went there but didn't exactly immerse themselves in the culture per se?
12:25am

Nataly
yes. Well what I was getting into was the fact that you can go to a place, a "different spot", and observe and criticize, but like you say that is not enough to really "live" the culture of that place.
12:26am

Me
So true. I found it really difficult to critique a place that I didn't personally live in or know first hand all that much about.





Nataly really got me thinking about the authority we have as writers. Who am I to say that the people in Manhattan Beach are mostly pretentious snobs? I don’t know everyone who lives there do I?

So, do I have the authority to write about Regis Way? Even though I live here, sometimes I question whether I am properly representing the space I’m talking about.


On another note, Nataly reminded me that there has been a story I have been forgetting to tell you all!




Nataly
Hey what ever happened to that car that was parked outside your house? I remember commenting that it was like a character in your blog because there were continuous blog postings about it.
12:35am

Me
I've been meaning to blog about it! It’s actually a really complicated story. So first, I finally met him! I was parking behind him when the exchange occurred. It was kind of awkward because we both pulled up at the same time and I went to say hello and he kind of stumbled out of his car and dropped this brown paper bag he was carrying. And out fell... a bottle of Jack. I was kind of blown away because he looked like this sweet older man. And then its like he just came back from the Gas station at 10am, probably already drunk. I think he may have a drinking problem.

Nataly
NO WAY, really? That's a crazy story. I think you should blog about it, like i told you the car is like a character in your blog. In fact, its one of the first things i remember about your blog
12:44am

Me
And it gets even better!! So Then he walked across the street and a few houses over and it looks like he lives in the garage… I do not know if he’s related to the people who live in the main house or what but it all seems kind of weird.
And then, a few days later there were two fire trucks and an ambulance outside that house
12:44am

Nataly
what????
12:44am

Me
and I haven’t seen him since and now his car is parked in their driveway
12:45am

Nataly
That's crazy, its like a soap opera, haha.
12:45am

Me
i know. i never thought so many interesting things could happen on one street. But when you really open your eyes and start looking, you'd be surprised what you start to notice
12:46am



…And it’s true. Once you begin to observe a place, even if its familiar to you with a new ‘lens’ or a new outlook, you will often see a lot more than you used to.

So, I may or may not be representing Regis Way the way my neighbor or an outsider would, but I guess the conclusion I’ve come to is that I shouldn’t! What makes blogs unique is that everyone has a different perspective.

And this is Life on Regis Way as I see it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Manhattan Beach


There comes a time in everyone’s life when the little birdie needs to fly from its nest, and today, I am that birdie.

I’ve decided to leave my comfort zone for a bit and expand my horizons. It is time to explore suburban neighborhoods beyond Regis Way.

I start my journey early in the morning. I head out of Regis Way to grab some grub at a little breakfast diner I’ve heard rave reviews about. Twenty minutes later, after passing underneath the 105 highway, I find myself next to a gorgeous beach stretching over 2 miles, at a plastic table underneath a large red umbrella. I have arrived at the infamous diner, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House on Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach, California. The food is exceptional, but the view is even better. This small, seemingly ‘dumpy’ diner is in the middle of one of the most gorgeous beach cities I have ever been to. It is a place I would love to live. A place I would fantasize about living in.

I pass the time people watching. There are young families pushing two strollers, an attractive thirty-something man walking a pristine Scottish-terrier mix that trots show dog style down the clean black pavement, and even a group of forty plus thin attractive women pouring out of a local yoga studio, clad in bright active wear, chatting furiously as they walk to their cars. One woman gets into a BMW X5 luxury SUV, another into a small Mercedes sedan, the last walks towards the beach. I imagine that she’s walking to her extravagant beachfront home and I am immediately jealous. I begin to imagine what my life would be like if I lived here. I would walk from my beach house to the Starbucks on the corner of Manhattan Beach Boulevard every morning, take a jog on the bright grey cement sidewalk that runs along the beach, grab lunch at Katsu-Ya (which has the best sushi around) with my best girlfriends, do some work from home while lounging in the sun on the patio, and then end my day walking hand in hand with my hot dentist boyfriend while our black lab trotted happily alongside our feet. Ah… It would be the life!

My starry eye’d fantasy is interrupted by the loud huffing and puffing of my best friend Alex who runs up to my table, sweaty and disheveled, her long blonde hair falling out from underneath her navy blue baseball cap.

“Sorry I’m late!” She says. Alex is a student at Loyola Marymount University who is a nanny for a single mother in Manhattan Beach. She once commented, “I think she is the only divorced working mom in Manhattan Beach.” This is a stigma I’m only beginning to understand now.

You see, despite its ‘quaint’ and friendly exterior, Manhattan Beach is known for its pretentiousness and snobbery. Stereotypically, it is known as a place where most parents’ have a caretaker for their children, pay mortgages on 4000+ square foot million dollar homes and condos, and fight to get their children in the best schools, all the while competing against their neighbors for the nicest car and highest paycheck.

I’m following Alex around for the day so I can get a better idea of what life in Manhattan Beach is like, and if suburban life here is anything like Regis Way. As of now, I’m trying to put the stereotypes aside and see what impressions of the beach city I can discover on my own.

Alex decided that there was no place better that described the city, and the interactions that take place within it, then at T-ball practice.

We arrive at the field that afternoon to the sounds of little boys shrieking as they run away from, not toward, the balls that are being lightly tossed to them.

The first thing I notice about the practice, is that there seems to be a strong separation among groups in the stands. There is a group of Hispanic nannies chatting at the top of the bleachers, a couple of moms standing at the fence, and then a group of thin blonde women chatting loudly in the bottom corner of the bleachers.

I hear one woman complain, “I talked to my mom today and she told me about this movie I should see, and I’m just like god mom, just because I’m a housewife doesn’t mean that I have two hours in my day to see a movie.”

Alex turns to me and rolls her eyes. “Yeah like what is she doing between 9am and 3pm while her kids are at school? Getting her nails done? Going to spin class? I can’t stand those ‘in’ moms.”

“What’s an ‘in’ mom?” I ask.

Alex points to a woman standing alone at the fence, “See that mom?” she asks, “She’s not a part of the ‘in’ group of moms. She tries to fit in, but for some reason they exclude her. One time, she came to T-ball with this really nice wrapped gift. I heard her go up to one of the ‘in' moms and say “I know it was your birthday this weekend so I just wanted to get you something.” It was so sad because the ‘in’ mom just rolled her eyes, looked over at her friends, and then opened the present. It was a Juicy Couture jacket. It was the most awkward exchange I’ve ever seen. The ‘in’ mom was just like ‘oh thanks you shouldn’t have’ then turned back to her friends and ignored the mom who gave her the gift. So she just picked up the ‘in' mom’s trash, and then cowered away defeated. These women are the older version of The Plastics.”

Her reference to the snobby group of girls in The Mean Girls, begins to hit home. The set up of T-ball practice does feel very much like high school: the popular girls or the "in crowd" discluding those who are not like them.

Alex continues telling me how there are always three or four moms who clearly don’t fit in and try really hard to be friends with the ‘in’ moms. Of course there are a couple of moms who don’t want to partake in the petty cliques of Manhattan Beach and don’t care about being a part of the ‘in’ group as well.

"I feel like a lot of times for these moms, it's all about how much money you have, what your connections are, or what school your kid is in," Alex adds.

One time, Alex overheard parents talking about how if you don’t have your child on the waiting list for Montessori, a local school, when they are infants that you have to pay a hefty price to get your child in. One mother told Alex, “I kind of had to throw a fit to get my son in, but we did it! And now he’s in toddlers.” A comical feat that made it seem like getting your child into preschool would be the equivalent to the excitement one would feel getting excepted into an Ivy League College.

And this pretentious competitiveness among parents extends into the school system with the kids.
Alex continues that the 10-year-old girl she watches, is very conscious of her appearance and what she's wearing. “One day she came home sobbing because she was the only person in her class without an Abercrombie sweatshirt,” Alex said.

By the end of T-ball one thing has become clear. Manhattan Beach is a stark contrast from Regis Way. For starters, the median family income in Manhattan Beach is almost triple that of Westchester County, capping out at $130,000 in the an estimated 2008 census. Likewise, homes are double or triple in cost in Manhattan Beach, exceeding two million dollars for an ocean view. In addition, Manhattan Beach was ranked, 16th by Fortune Magazine in 2008 as one of the top earning towns in the country, while Westchester…well, didn’t make the cut.

I did not originally leave Regis Way for the day to explore a contradiction to my idea of suburbia, but that is exactly what happened. Before my venture south, I thought almost all suburban neighborhoods consisted of a special sense of community: where you say hi to your neighbors and pick up their mail when they’re away, not buy them designer jackets. And although Manhattan Beach has some of these neighbor friendly qualities, and although our Westchester community has nice homes and even similar fights to get our children into the best schools, the ‘uppity’ nature that I encountered with the 'in' moms in Manhattan Beach, makes me appreciate the ‘down-to-earth’ feel I get on Regis Way so much more than I did before.

At the same time, it feels odd for me to be criticizing the thing I desire. Although I love Regis Way, to say that I wouldn’t love to be rich, live in a huge beach house, have a nanny and take spin class all day would be a lie. I don’t want to be pretentious, but I would love that sort of carefree lifestyle.

So, I may have flown the coop for the day, but for now I’ve learned that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sometimes what appears most desirable from an outside perspective isn’t always as desirable once you’re on the inside.

And so, I say goodbye to Manhattan Beach, but the fantasy still remains. The white picket fence, dentist boyfriend and black lab seem to be far away... and yet still within reach.

But for now, it’s time for this birdie to return back to her nest.

It’s time to go home to Regis Way.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Flood on Regis Way



“What the f*** is happening!”

This was Regis Way resident, twenty-year-old Jesse Chin’s first reaction when he came home from a calm and relaxing spring break in Palm Springs, to find the newly remodeled kitchen of his 3,000+ square foot home covered in an inch thick of sewage water.

“I was frantic” he said. “ I immediately turned off the main water source and started sopping up the mess with every spare towel I could find.”

While Jesse was on vacation, a wade pool had begun to formulate in the kitchen, dining and living room, which are two steps below the first level of his home. Water poured like a mini Niagara Falls from every orifice of the kitchen, cascading from underneath the cabinets and bursting out of broken pipes.

“I didn’t know what had happened, but it was a great thing to come home to after a relaxing weekend,” Jesse added sarcastically.

It was not the first flood this Regis Way home’s kitchen had seen, but it was certainly the worst. In order to cut costs and save money, the owners of the house, which Jesse is renting, used cheap plumbing and unqualified workers to do the kitchen remodel.

After calling an emergency plumber, it was determined that a pipe may be clogged, but even after turning the water back on the source of the leak could not be found. So, the plumber told Jesse to keep the main water line on, explaining that it was probably a freak accident or the clog had passed, and ensured him that everything would be fine.

“So, I went upstairs” Jesse said, “and then I came back down twenty minutes later to find the kitchen covered in water once again! It was a nightmare.”

As a result of the floods, the blonde hardwood floors have become warped, and a few appliances have been ruined.

“In the end they [the landlords] are going to spend a lot more money fixing this problem, than they would have just putting proper plumbing into the house in the first place,” Jesse said.

Jesse encourages all Regis Way residents who are remodeling or planning to remodel to learn from this mistake.

“Don’t take short cuts,” he said. “Spend more now, it will save you money and stress in the end.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meet Nick


I was sitting on the grassy knoll above Drolinger parking lot at the LMU campus, on a Saturday afternoon, for two reasons: one, there was an LMU lacrosse game against my hometown college U of A, and two, because one of my best friends is on the LMU LAX team and asked me to come out and support him.

It was unusually windy on top of the parking structure, which was deceiving because of the extreme LA sunshine that day. My hair was blowing in every direction, and my Calvin Klein wide rimmed sunglasses, that cover half my face, still weren’t large enough to shield my face from the sharp rays.

‘I am not dressed for this type of bipolar weather,’ I thought, as I walked up to my friend, Hayden Fullstone, (#8) to congratulate him on the win; LMU killing U of A 13 to 6.

Next to Hayden, stood #31. Standing at 6’2”, the tall, 22 year-old lacrosse player is muscular, tanned and has long wavy brown hair that resembles that of a surf bum. I soon learn that his personality is just as laid back as his hairstyle.

His name is Nick Roessler and he’s been playing on the LMU LAX team since he transferred from University of Colorado at Boulder, his second semester sophomore year.

Playing as a defender on the LMU team Nick enjoys “whacking the shit out of people” and “taking his aggression out on the field.”

He began playing lacrosse as a freshman in high school, in San Francisco where he grew up.

“I sucked at first,” he said. “I had never played before and the coach just assumed because I played football and basketball, and was this big athletic guy that I’d be a good player. Instead, I sat on the bench for the entire year. But I liked contact sports so I stuck with it.”

I asked Nick how, if he started playing lacrosse so late, he could have possibly ended up playing for a Division I college.

He answered that he was proactive and persistent.

“I spent a lot of time just throwing the ball against the wall,” he said “and by my senior year I just improved a lot, became captain, and it all just kind of clicked.”

I can tell right away that Nick is a great conversationalist. The kind of person you could easily open up to about a family tragedy and yet also go out and have a couple of beers with and know you were going to have a good time.

Our conversation flows easily from lacrosse, to school, to life.

I am shocked to learn that Nick is also my neighbor on Regis Way. His address only setting him four doors down from my home. He loves living on Regis just as much as I do. His house is always throwing parties, or having people over.

“We have a ‘revolving door’ ” he said. “There is always someone in my house who doesn’t live there. Whether it’s an LMU lacrosse player or just neighbors and friends,” he adds.

During the spout of our talk, nearly four different groups of cute college girls approach Nick and congratulate him on a good game. One of which exclaimed, “You are the meanest guy on the field!” I huge compliment for a defender.

“Hmm popular with the ladies are we?” I ask after the last set of girls leave.

Nick looks down, blushing, and lightly shakes his head. His goofy side smile suggests that he’s far more innocent then his charming exterior and not quite as confident as his aggressive lacrosse skills might suggest.

“Nah,” he says, as if reading my mind, “Things aren’t always as they appear.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whiskey in the Jar


It’s 4am on Regis Way and guess what I woke up to?

“Now some men take delight in the drinking and the roving,

But others take delight in the gambling and the smoking.

But I take delight in the juice of the barley,

And courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early”


That’s right, the Irish Folk song, “Whiskey in the Jar.”

It was a startling way to start my morning. At the sound of the music, I jolted up and ran to my window. I peered out to see two cars parked in the middle of the street, facing each other, one was a small SUV, the other, a silver sedan. Both had their lights on bright, which shone on a group of (I’m going to assume here) drunken boys, clad in lime green and shimmering top hats, jigging to the Irish folk tune.

Why you might ask?

Well because it’s Saint Patty’s day of course!

…But why at 4am?

One word.

Brennan’s.

Every March 17th, the quaint Irish pub opens its doors at 4am, for college students and locals ready to drink in the name of a saint. Today, LMU students were given free buses to safely tow them from LMU’s back gates (only two blocks from Regis Way) to the infamous Irish pub. This thus explains why there was a dance fest going on in the middle of the street on Regis today.

But, in the spirit of the Irish, let’s not blame these boys for waking up the neighborhood. In all honesty, I wish I had joined them.

To all, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

GarrRRRrrfieeEEeeld


It's like clockwork.

Every night at about 12am I hear the slam of her front door, and the pounding stomp of her feet as they quickly travel down each stair. Then, there is the deliberate jingle of a rock filled can, which is always followed by the loud obnoxious screech of her voice.

It starts out as a calm beckon and slowly grows louder.

"Garfield...............GaRRrfieEEld..................GaRRRfieEEEld."

There is a short pause.

"HERE pretty kitty! Come to mommy."

Another short pause and then the finale.

"GAAAaaRRRRRFFFiiiiEEEEEeeeLLLddd!!?? Where the HELL are you, you BAD CAT?!"

I hardly blame the white and orange striped tabby for hiding under the house and not wanting coming out.