Piano Lessons

Next stop, Bingo.  Really though, I’m totally unmotivated and stuck with piano let alone not getting any better.  It could be the pieces I’m playing are just way too hard for me?  Lately I’ve been hacking away at Phantom of the Opera.  When I was at my mom’s house I thought I’d bring my book and practice on her small piano with broken keys.  That wasn’t working at all, I went to go get a keyboard for her house and she wanted to come along.

What a disaster!  She thought I was better than I am 😦  While I was checking the weight of the keyboards with my Phantom music, I could tell how dissapointed she was in my playing ability after playing for so frigg’in long.  Taking my family to a store with me has always been taking the spending police along, saves me a bunch of money but it’s totally annoying when I’m on a mission to actually get something.

In this case, my ability made my mom question why I pick such hard pieces?  OK, so I suck, but the whole purpose is to keep my brain working and be able to focus for an hour.  I’m in a piano group that meets every few months, just the fact I can get through a piece without my fingers shaking is a miracle.

I took piano lessons as a kid for several years, my parents rented a piano for me.  The highlight of my career was accompanying the choir at my 8th grade graduation.  What people don’t understand is that when you’re practicing, it doesn’t sound like anything yet.  You’re just trying to get the fingers working, I’m always screwing up what key I’m actually in the first couple go arounds.

My piano went back to the shop after my dad heard me practicing one day and told me I sucked after years of playing.  As an adult, I realize the $15 a month was taking from the beer money.  Adulthood also brings with it the fact that you can enjoy things without having to be a concert pianist, not all roads lead to fame and fortune.

My great aunt Maggie (Grandma’s sister) gave my brother and I her coin collection about 20 years ago.  She had gone to UC Santa Barbara music school, most likely one of the first to graduate in the 1940’s?  She played the violin, then became a teacher.  One of the coins was worth the price of my piano, almost to the sales tax…I went for it.  It’s below a mirror in my living room that had been in my grandparents house my whole life.  Although I didn’t inherit any music ability, it’s kind of my time with my aunt and grandma when I sit down at the piano.

If I were to live by the rule of not doing something because I’m not good at it, I’d never do anything.

I’ll have to see how this goes with the lessons, it’s been about 15 years since I’ve had one. Life happens, getting in the way of practice time.  The years I missed my piano group was from not having any time to practice and not wanting to torture the group without it.  I’m one who has to practice, it’s not natural at all for me.

The little ditty above is from Midnight Cowboy, a piece I played for a recital as a kid.  Leave it to me to play that as a kid, not knowing that movie was about a gigalo who caters to women my age now…haha.

Slowing Down

Came back to my hometown of Manhattan Beach again, thinking there would be some actual beach time involved.  It’s hard to get down there, dive in the water, then come dripping back.  The window was yesterday, I felt like crap though so I didn’t do it.  The fog rolled in today, when I’m feeling a little better.

Spending time with my mom is good though, especially when my friends are all losing their parents.  I’d like to be that beach girl again, it’s just that it requires effort by me to get down there for my sunburn.  Maybe I’m just not feeling that great?

On the way down it was REALLY smokey from all the fires in NorCal, people were wearing masks in their cars at the rest stops.  I just stopped for dinner at my favorite, Harris Ranch, for clean bathrooms and a Diet Coke to get me going again.  That was a mistake (the Diet Coke).  I’ve stopped drinking them, then started again last week at dinner.  It’s really done a number on me, giving me a pinching pain and totally bloated.

Not to complain about all my ailments, just took me down yesterday.  Being a cyber-chondriac, all roads lead to cancer for my symptoms.  It’s an if/then thing, any symptoms for anything could be cancer on google searches.  After looking up all worst case scenarios, I went for a walk to push through the weird pain.

The Manhattan Mall opened in 1980, the year I was out of high school, with only a few stores.  It’s across from my mom’s house, decided to take an air conditioned stroll through there first.  Walking through the mall wasn’t really memory lane for me, it’s never had the best stores.  I can get the same crap in Las Cruces, it’s a higher end mini-mall.  When I was little, it was Standard Oil tank farm, we cut a hole in the fence to play in it.

As I write, my mom has her computer in my old room and is reading her emails out loud to me.  This is the thing about being with her, I must delete hundreds of emails a day and yet if I’m here she reads them all to me, or laughs as if it’s the best email she’s ever gotten and I have to hear about it.

Back to the Mall…my mom’s piano sucks and I’m going to take piano lessons again when I get back.  On the other side of the mall there’s a Fry’s where I thought I could pick up a cheap keyboard to practice while I’m down here.  The whole section to get there is blocked off due to a new parking lot construction, so I climbed through a broken part of a fence to get there.  Now THAT brought back memories!!  I had to walk close to Hobo Bridge, my childhood biggest fear.  We never went past that bridge, it was wilderness (possibly the East Coast?) There were railroad tracks underneath that were close to our old house.  We could walk down to the bridge, we’d never go under it for fear of the Hobo’s, or as Stephen King so perfectly  wrote about “IT.”

Now I’m 55, I see it as a bridge.  Everything is built up on that side now, there’s no mystery on the other side.  The only mystery is what’s going on with my body.  Sometimes when I’m down here I feel I’m walking with ghosts, a lot of my childhood friends are already gone.  When I think of a memory or who I was with at the time, I realize they have passed away.  Seems young to have lost a bunch of people at 55, we did grow up next to a tank farm and all the hazardous waste.  I’m also starting to think being a Diet Coke generation didn’t do anyone any favors either.  I hear the Siren’s calling sometimes when I’m here, telling me I’m not immune after living a really healthy life.

The walk helped get my body somewhat back to normal, the pain is gone.  I might be down here more and more for my mom, not a lot of time to myself though or time to write.  The mom stuff seems unique to me, then I watch Sienfeld re-runs and laugh at how it’s just aging parents.

Excuse me, I have to read a newsletter my mom just printed out for some reason?

LA Tourist

With a few days free because my son is working in Napa, his wife and I headed to my Mom’s house so I could show her LA and my home town.  Usually during the summer it’s pretty cold and foggy by the beach, we’ve hit a heat wave like no other (since there’s no global warming).  It’s fine if it’s just to hop in the water, it’s another thing if you’re a tourist in your own ‘hood.

Of course I had to go in the water first off, might do that today before we head back up an incredibly smokey I-5 back to my real home.  Most of the time when I come down here, that’s the extent of my visit…a day at the beach.  Really, just a few hours to swim then dry off, don’t lay out anymore.

From there, we decided on dinner in Marina Del Rey – a place my DIL from Turkey has never heard of so we wandered up to Venice instead.  Venice is not my favorite, it was crowded, hot, smelled like pot and to me is like a poorly run carnival.  As soon as my DIL figured it out, we were free to leave.

Instead of MDR for dinner, we then headed up to Gladstones on Sunset & PCH in Malibu, which was surprisingly not very crowded.  I’m used to “back in the day” where it was tough to get seated it was so popular.  It was a Tuesday night though, not like a weekend.

To be total tourists, we had to go to Hollywood and Universal Studios on the hottest day of the year with what looked like 58% humidity.  I brought a water bottle or I would have never made it through the 2+ hour line (90 minutes on the board, which must have meant 90 minutes to get to the indoor line).  It was for the Harry Potter ride, which was actually a lot of fun once we got on it without heat stroke.

The other ride was the tram tour I remember as a kid.  I’ve only been there once, it was after Jaws came out.  My fading memory is the fake shark coming at us, then going from set to set and seeing the “I Love Lucy” & “Bewitched” sets.  They weren’t still shows, the Bewitched set was showing us the magic of Hollywood and how they made her disappear to show up somewhere else though the editing.  WAY before cell phones!!  Now you can do everything on you phone, that’s pretty much magic.

One thing Universal did that was amazing on the rides was the 3D and that Harry Potter ride.  Even going to sit down in that Kung Fu Panda theater (not something I’d ever planned to see, I needed a short line and to sit down) puts you right in there.  Those rides were amazing, didn’t anticipate that at all.

We stayed until around 9p, I time everything around LA traffic.  My usual route here is the 405 S. through West LA and LAX airport.  The downtown LA route through the 101 to 105 at night was spectacular, don’t think I’ve done that since my friends were at USC?  Even then, I didn’t pay any attention or those buildings weren’t lit up like that.  Downtown LA is someplace I never go, thought it was just office buildings with some hospitals and a whole lot of traffic.

Going to be a tough drive back through all the smoke in the central valley.  Take my dive in the ocean and head back for the long drive.  Thinking about asking the NBA players a few doors down from my mom to help me put my bike back in the car 🙂





Heading “Home”

I haven’t been to Manhattan Beach all summer, not that that’s a big loss or I haven’t been busy with other things.  If I don’t get out on the water sailing once a week, it’s twice.  MB seems like it’s not “my town” anymore.  I see all the FB pictures of people still looking awesome in bikini’s in their 50’s. The one thing I wish I hadn’t missed is the English Beat, that would have been fun!  I might have been creepy Heller showing up by myself.

I head down today w/ my new electric folding bike, a Pedego.  There are a few hills I avoid or walk my bike up when I’m down there, be nice for that jump start up the hills.  When you fold it up, it kinda looks like a wheelchair?  The cover of the brochure looks like a senior citizen demographic (which is me?).  I’m still fully capable of riding a bike!!  I rode it without the battery about half way home from the store and then tried it out when I got to some hills to get used to it.

There are two places I could use the bump start, those beach hills and getting up to the Golden Gate Bridge.  When I was a teen I had a moped to park at the beach to avoid parking.  Uber has been convenient getting around, the extra traffic is very noticeable now.   I have a love/hate with Uber, it’s starting to remind me of the traffic and cab drivers in Ciaro – they drive like crap.

The other great thing about it is it’s a folding bike, it can go in the boat or plane for transportation when I get someplace.  The hard part is, I can’t lift  it.  I did it at the store and felt it for 2 days afterward.  That part of getting older is really hard for me, I used to be so strong.  When I dock, pull the plane out, now with the bike I always need help.  Because I’m older too, it’s not like I’m the hot girl asking for help.  Last week I was waiting for someone to walk by to help me getting the boat out and a guy said, “Sorry, I’m in a hurry and can’t help.”  Late to sail?  There’s really no such thing.  I told him I didn’t need help and waited for anyone else helpful to walk by.  I got Cap’t Ron with a cig hanging out of his mouth, still better than banging the boat into the side of the dock.

Excited to just dive in the water again, can’t do that here it’s too cold.  It’s weird, lately when I do things it really reminds me of being a kid.  That fog yesterday while we were sailing with sort of choppy waters always reminds me of going out on boats when I was in grade school.  Going in the water in MB reminds me of heading down for a dip after school that was a few blocks from the beach.  Nice to relive some good memories, now I can finally ride my bike up that beach hill!!


I used to be Heller

Aging is a humbling experience, you feel the same and yet your body and mind is telling you that’s not the case.  When I turned 50, I gained 10 pounds that have never gone away no matter what I do.  I’ve rowed, ran, swam, rode my bike, eaten only salads yet it is stuck there.  In a way, I finally have a woman’s body instead of the bikini bod I got to have for almost 50 years (you’d think I’d be grateful?).  Instead of throwing on a pair of shorts and seeing muscle I used to see, I see elephant knees.

As much as I love the beach and really am grateful I got to grow up in a beach town, moving to NorCal saved my skin.  Never one to just sit around and lay out for a tan anyway, my life was the beach.  In my teens, I would roller skate that mile to the beach every day to play volleyball and swim.  If I laid out, it was to read a book or to dry off.  As a kid, I’d ride my bike with $1 for lunch tucked in the corner of my towel for Zeppy’s pizza.

All this was coming to me on my swim yesterday, where a woman was in the lane next to me with her teenage daughter…smoking me in laps.  It’s not like I’m fast at anything, there are times I just want to cry at what I used to be.  I’m fast and in shape for my age?? I remember going in for my physical at 50 where the nurse said, “You’re 50 years young?” like I was 100.

It’s one thing to have the physical decline, barely able to pull myself out of the pool.  Twice my legs have gone out from underneath me, once getting on the boat and another time where my cousin & I were jumping off a small stage while we were dancing.  I paid for that for months afterward, it was worth it.  That’s excluding the fact I’ve been injured almost all year with broken ribs (from surfing)/bad back knocking me out for 6 mos.  Lucky I’m able to even attempt to get back in shape at all.

One of the hardest things is my memory recall.  This weekend is the 6-man volleyball tournament in Manhattan Beach I was considering going to.  Besides the elephant knees & extra weight, I look similar to how I did growing up and people recognize me.  Since I haven’t lived there for a long time, if I see someone I recognize I immediately say, “I’m Heller” to take that awkward moment of scrambling for a name out of the equation.

Obviously, people don’t have the same memory loss I do while I look at a face I haven’t seen for 20 years to try and recall a name.   It’s worse when they’re drunk with a hat and sunglasses, I had 2 guys come up to me at the last Hometown Fair I went to and were pissed I couldn’t recall their names.  One of them, for the life of me, I don’t remember at all even when he told me what his name was.

My memory used to be spot on, now I might as well be standing in front of someone peeing my pants is how humiliated I feel when put on the spot.

There was a guy at the golf course who had the same car I did.  When it was time for a smog, mine wouldn’t pass without going to a rescue smog because of a computer glitch.  The next time I saw him, I told him about it and he looked at me totally blank like he had no idea what I was talking about.  A few months later, he asked me to look up his handicap and told me he had alzheimers.  I watched his decline, finally coming out with a nurse so he could still play until he passed away.  His handicap was a 10, even with alzheimers.  A woman who guided his alzheimers group came in and wondered about bringing some of the group to play and I told her that he was really good, not your average golfer.

I think about him as I age, not that I’m anywhere near that right now.  I do skip a beat from time to time, like if someone asks what I did last weekend I’d really have to think about it instead of automatically recalling.  The physical is still automatic, similar to that guy playing golf.  Still, it’s declining probably proportional to my age which makes going to my hometown events almost painful.  That, and I’m genetically screwed in the memory department.

In search of a new coffee place

This whole Peet’s poor customer service fiasco has me in an afternoon latte free fall.  At times, I’ve actually had to resort to Starbucks, which is almost like stopping at a rest area for coffee in one of those machines.  The odd thing has been different coffee shops attract different customers, I’m just learning all this.

The Peet’s customer used to be serious coffee drinkers, no flavored drinks, PLM (people like me) who need a strong boost and would like to just sit back for a bit to read a book.  The first one I had ever been to was when I lived in Oakland, I’d go to the flagship Berkeley store.  I even bought stock when it went public, and then a corporation bought it.  Now  there’s the flavored drinks and K-cups, which should have been the sign of impending doom.  I always got my drinks “for here” so I could read and save waste.  So far I haven’t found another place that does that.

On the South side of town is Pacific Bay, which is decent coffee without a coffee shop vibe.  I’ve been trying to love it, it’s not very crowded and a little out of my way from my normal OCD routine.  Sadly, it’s too far out of my way if my routine includes the gym  on the way home to swim.  It’s a little bit of a location problem more than anything else.

They opened a Philz coffee right by our old office that’s booming.  Opening day was free coffee to train  the employee’s, our whole office was wired.  Philz doesn’t make latte’s or steam milk, they do pour over coffee with cream.  The few times I’ve been there I must have gone during the mom groups time with strollers everywhere.  When my kids were little I would have loved that, now I just want to read my New Yorker on my Kindle and have a place to sit.  The other problem I have with it is I do pour over coffee on my boat, I don’t really need to pay more for that.  It’s a good meeting place though, I’m plenty wired when I leave.

The other place I’ve been trying to love is the Coffee Shop for $5 a pop.  They have that Square system where they flip the screen around and the suggested tip amounts come up, minimum $1, making it a $6 latte.  It’s also just way too hip for me, millennial start up crowd where everyone has their laptop and “working.”  Not my vibe at all, it’s a great latte though.  They also have a liquor license, to cover everyones addiction.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they sold pot soon.

I’m still in search, a caffeine addict without a home.  There are 3 options:

  1. Keep searching for the perfect place
  2. Make latte’s at home
  3. Quit my afternoon latte addiction

I’m still royally pissed at Peet’s for jerking me around on every level after being a loyal customer for 20 years.  With all the competition around here, it doesn’t seem like I should have to crawl back and suck it up.  I’m getting really good at foaming my own latte, which might be my only solution?


It’s embarrassing how much Garmin stuff I have, tracking my every move.  The newest is a marine watch that supposedly links to my auto pilot on the boat that also has a heart rate monitor.  Wow does Garmin have all my info!  When Apple came out with the watch, I was convinced the HRM on that would notify Facebook when you died and post a little montage of your life.  That still could be true, there’s no doubt they’re collecting data for the future while we’re paying for them to have it.

It’s totally worth it though, I love this stuff!  My back has been a lot better, I can still feel it and am trying to be careful.  I started swimming and riding my bike again.  I’m not a cyclist, I have a gorgeous touring bike I haven’t been able to ride because of my back.

This Garmin is giving me all my swimming stats, for being down for almost a year I’m still in pretty decent shape.  My Vo2 (whatever that is) is for a 30 year old.  Without training too much, the speed’s not too bad either.  Not like I EVER want to compete again, just nice to know.

Every time I think of joining masters swim again I think of my experience in my 40’s when I swam.  There were two women in the pool who were faster than me, one who’s daughter now swims for USC.  This one woman gave me a birthday card for my 40th saying, “You’re faster than you think you are.”  It’s hard for me to tell, Walnut Creek is to swimming as Manhattan Beach is to volleyball (as Marin is to rowing, I rowed there for a few years).  A friend of mine has a daughter that played VB in college close by.  He was in the olympics for VB when I started rowing and found out Marin was a top rowing club.  I said, “I grow up in MB that’s #1 in VB, move to WC and join a masters program where it’s #1 for swimming, then join Marin rowing.  Where can I live where I’m #1?”  I’m sure he couldn’t relate, it was still fun to complain to a former olympian while watching his daughter’s match.

The incident that ended my swimming hopes and made me feel 12 years old was due to a parent race at one of my kids swim meets when they were little.  We had morning masters before the kids practices, I was asked to be on the A team for the parents race.  This was a “for fun” race, not going in any record books.  It was a 4 person relay, as soon as one person touches the wall the next one goes off the blocks for 25meters.  I can make it across a pool taking maybe one breath, top of my game.

Minutes before the race, a few women decided that they wanted to race too, a B team was put together last minute…and I mean last minute.  Suddenly, there were 8 of us walking up to the blocks when our heat was called.  To my horror, one of my “teammates” switched me up AS WE WERE WALKING TO THE BLOCKS.  I guess one of the last minute swimmers was a known triathlete, so I got bumped back.  This happened to me once before, in 7th grade when I called a VB game and when it came to our match my partner said she wanted to win and booted me for someone else.  I’ve hated both of them ever since.

The A team got 1st (of course), my B team got 2nd.  You all remember the City meet of 2003?  Yeah, thought so.  I do have a few gold medals for rowing, even that was mental torture of who gets what seat and what position was the “best.”  I was told my seat was for the lamest rower, I was 4th seat, apparently along for the ride?

At 55, just glad my back is feeling good enough to hop in and out of the pool.  Lifting a boat to put in the water hurts just thinking about it, same with golf.  I have many o’ competing in golf story as well.  My competing days are over, it’s all about getting to my golden years on my own 2 feet.  I’m closer to that than being 12, or even 40 now.