This is where thoughts become things.

Hi, I'm Daniela. Welcome to my personal lair on the Internet. This is where I write about storytelling, activism, technology and pop culture. Sometimes I post videos. I update my lair when the mood strikes me. Follow me on Twitter for daily updates (@dcap).

Tag : diary

Bicoastal Tales: Spring 2011 SF Work Adventure

I’m back in NYC and predict that this recent trip is worth documenting for future Daniela. I spent the last four months working for Current TV in San Francisco, with a short stint at the LA office. I also went to the Sundance Film Festival in January (my first time at the fest).

What I regret the most is that I didn’t blog or keep a physical journal. Thankfully, I did take many mental notes :) as well as some photos. I still haven’t gone through my 7D cards, but I wanted to share some memories and Droid snaps with you all.

When I wasn’t with my family, I bonded with my flatmates in my Oakland sublet, explored SF — the city I made many trips to on my own ages  17-22 — after work, road around on the BART, and marveled at how much Oakland is becoming this mecca for artists and activists (and noting the permutations of gentrification).

So much has happened in the past four months — I left New York in a long-term relationship and returned single; I discovered a miracle skin product that I am in love with; I defined my future parenting goals; etc. But here are the top 10 highlights (NOT in order of importance) from my trip that I hope are beneficial to anyone who stumbles across this and are curious about what it’s like to make a home for yourself on both coasts:

1. Cali People Vs. New York People

Only after spending several months back in Cali can I finally admit to myself that this stereotype is true: Cali people are most definitely more laid back (generally speaking) than east coasters, particularly when it comes to office personalities in a media environment. East coasters are more direct/cut to the chase and tend to be workaholics who party as hard as they pursue their endless goals. Cali folks like to make small talk, are more likely to go on lunch breaks (a totally healthy thing to do!), and take work/life balance more seriously.

One of the greatest gifts to myself while in Cali was cultivating a stronger ability to chill the fuck out and to connect with different personality styles. I may be from Cali, but I definitely have an – ahem – more “intense” personality than the average Cali person and I appreciated the chance to balance myself out. I’ve promised myself that from now on I am going to eat while at work, take breaks (when possible), and value my own peace of mind just as much as I value my work environment.

2. Salmon Salad At South Beach Cafe in San Francisco

Salmon Salad!!!

I literally ate here about three times a week just to have this salad. It is in my Top 3 foods of all time. I would take a leisurely stroll down Embarcadero and treat myself to this delicious meal. I am actually a little sick of salmon at this point… I’m lying. I crave this salad and hope I can find an east coast equivalent!!!

The only salmon salad that came close to this was the one I had in Utah while at Sundance in January. It was pretty orgasmic too:

Salmoooooon

3. Nolita Selector, Fruitcake, And The SF/Oakland/East Bay Queer Scene

My flatmate Nolita turned out to be an amazing, intelligent, and charming young woman who also happens to be a talented DJ/photographer/party promoter/Jill of all creative trades (thanks for hooking it up, B!). I never did end up going to any of Nolita’s Fruitcake parties (womp) but we did spend a lot of time bonding in the kitchen and I met her mom, so that’s cool, right? This blurb in OP Magazine describes her better than I could. As does this video from one of her parties:

FRUITCAKE! Saturday, March 19th and every 3rd Saturday @ The Stud Bar, SF from Nolita Selector on Vimeo.

I do regret never going to any of her Fruitcake parties — I saw a bunch of raw footage while she was working with her editor and it looks super fun.

I am hoping she moves back to NYC very soon so hopefully we can collaborate on something together.

(more…)

The Archive: Great Women of Film Networking Event Recap (2002)

I am in the process of cleaning out a hard drive that has been in my possession since 2000. The files that I am stumbling across are so old and random; I can’t believe it was me who wrote them in the first place. I was so scarily honest and hilariously tragic while purging all this brain vomit, never intending for any of it to see the light of day. As such, I will be sporadically posting the best finds on The Lair and then providing one paragraph of context below each submission.

These are all my original words as typed. Nothing has been or will be altered to avoid embarrassment.

__________________
2002-07-24
Great Women of Film Log
by Daniela

I know I forgot to write about my experience at the Great Women of Film Networking event this past weekend, I will summarize since I am the only one who reads this anyway – BOO!

hehe

Events of 7/19/2002

8am – Board flight to LA

10am – Arrive at LAX airport

10:30am – Get off shuttle at 4 Points Sheraton, the fancy hotel I reserved to make me feel like a business lady.

When you travel alone you should at least feel comfortable, right.

12:00pm – Take shuttle to Mervyn’s and purchase “networking” type outfit.

4:00pm – Finish getting dressed, discover I have no toiletrees, run to gift shop and buy toothpaste. I have to take toothpaste with me to event since I have no time to put it in my room.

Or my ass.

6:10pm – After being the LAST person to be dropped off by shuttle even though I was the 1st on (along with fancy UCLA professors and a soccer star from Napoli), I arrive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills.

7:00pm – Watching the schmoozing is making me ill, I forgot I don’t know how to socialize with others. Write furiously in notebook about all I see.

Admire giant Oscar statues that litter the room. Drink lots of Red Bull.

7:30pm – Am approached by a woman who is curious as to why I am writing in a green notebook in the center of the room, eyeing everyone. She ends up being a producer and likes me. She has me follow her around and introduces me to almost everyone there. I meet producers from Warner Brothers, the editor of Variety magazine, and a bunch of other important people I don’t know.

8:00pm – I meet the Assistant the the VP of Films at Granada Entertainment, her name is Laura. We decide to stick together. She is philipino and talks very fast, she knows her stuff.

She writes notes in my notebook about people I should not associate myself with, people she hates in the industry.

8:30pm – We head up grand staircase to screening room. Lots of Oscar statues in there. We watch a film about cancer, to motivate the rich to bid high on the items that are sold after, with proceeds going to City of Hope, an org that does a lot of cancer research.

9:00pm – We watch a documentary on young women in film, at the program of Girls Film School in El Paso, Texas.

It is very inspiring.

9:30pm – More bidding ensues, people buy fabulous things like private jet planes and botox injections. I write everything I see.

10:00pm – Panelists finally arrive.

They are women from all aspects of the film industry – directors, producer,

editors, special effects people, etc.

Their info goes in my notebook, I write write write it all.

Bonnie Curtis, a producer on A.I and Minority Report talks about the importance of having a mentor. She makes paradoxal statement of the vitalness of having a mentor, but that you can’t go find one, they find you- but only when you are ready to have one.

My mind swirls with questions, but I am sitting to far up to ask.

11:00pm – Event is officially over, and I wait in line with lots of famous people to use the ladies room.

11:30pm – My shuttle flakes on me, and a man with a ferrari that has my name on the license plate offers to lend me his home all night in Beverly Hills with an olympic sized swimming pool (gasp) while his wife and him go party. I am flattered, but decline. I do not wish to revel in other people’s success. I am forced to pay for a cab all the way back to LAX.

12:00am – I take the shuttle from LAX back to my hotel and watch the Conan O’Brian show. I am so excited from the night’s events I do air hops on the bed like a freakin kid.

2:00am – I go to sleep, and dream the dreams of inspired filmmakers.

11:00am – I wake up, and get ready to get the hell out of LA.

12:45pm – I arrive at LAX, where during the x-raying of my bags they confiscate my cosmetic scissors, making a huge fuss in front of everyone, one probably reserved for drug smuggling.

The scissors are about two inches long and I get pissed off, explaining that I had no plans to stab someone with the tool I use to cut tags off my clothes. Whatever.

2:20pm – I board my flight back to Sacramento.

3:40pm – I arrive in Sacramento, so thrilled to have experienced such an amazing event as the GWOF/City of Hope benefit. I clutch the business cards I collected and make mental note to thank all I met there, to keep in their memory.

-Am amazed at the amount of times I was complimented on my name.

While working as an administrative assistant at a non-profit, a co-worker told me about this event. I was twenty years old and knew I was capable of more than filing and building Access databases. My colleague (who always stood up for herself) knew that I wanted to make films someday and found this listing on the internet for me. For some crazy reason, I was greatly inspired and decided to take the risk and attend (all by myself). It was truly a life-changing event. At that time, I had zero exposure to people in the industry and had never met a female producer before. I remember getting on my knees in my hotel room the last night of my trip and praying for just one chance. “All I need is one, God, and I will show you what I can do.”

Thanksgiving In New York: 5 Years Later

Five years ago, I spent Thanksgiving back in Sacramento, CA. I had only lived in New York for four months but was already struggling with my new reality; I needed to escape for a while.

What I am remembering right now is the conflicting ball of feelings that I had during that Thanksgiving — happiness, extreme loneliness, low self worth, optimism and fear.

THE BEGINNING
I moved from Bushwick to Washington Heights in 2004. At the time, I certainly did not factor in how race, culture and coastal perceptions would affect my life. In retrospect, I probably should have considered these things, but at the time my only focus was getting the hell out of California.

When I finally arrived to my “dream city,” I had no idea what to expect and was shocked to discover how segregated New York was. I had never lived in an ethnic enclave before, not to the degree that exists in New York. I am Chicana, yes, but it was still an adjustment to move from homogenized little Sacramento to a neighborhood that was entirely Dominican. There was a Jewish community near the synagogue but these two groups rarely mixed (it might be different now).

Cultural gentrification (a term I learned in New York) involves those not from a long standing community moving into that area and then changing it, for better or for worse — often, it’s both. I realize now that I was part of the gentrification that is slowly but steadily happening right now in Washington Heights, although my contribution was different; I was a middle class Latina — who spoke little Spanish and had never met someone who was Dominican — who moved into a working class Dominican neighborhood, where (at the time) Spanish was the primarily language. It was a huge culture shock for me.

At the time, I was renting a tiny room in Washington Heights for $400 per month. This included free laundry service, room service and dinner each day. It also included a Dominican family of three who, although very nice to me, fought constantly, spent most of the time hanging out in their underwear and didn’t seem to mind the endless stream of cockroaches that paraded through the kitchen. I would turn the light on to get a glass of water and for an instant, the wall would turn from black to white as they scuttled into cracks behind the fridge. I ordered a lot of Chinese food in those days.

My unstable emotional state oddly matched my physical reality; One evening, the entire bathroom ceiling caved in. I woke up to see what had happened and found myself peering up into a gaping void in where the ceiling used to be, surrounded by rubble and grime, only to find another face peering down at me. It took almost a week for the unscrupulous super to take care of it while we borrowed our neighbor’s bathroom and (most horrifying) a communal bucket.

I started going to bars and staying out late; when I went home with people, it was (at first) just to use their bathroom.

Luckily, I didn’t have a lot of free time to spend at the apartment  — I had two internships and a part time night job as a transcriptionist for a reality show called Home Delivery. Craigslist was my savior (I found my casting and film editing internships there); without it and other internet resources, I probably would have never left California. It was somewhat comforting to have a place to go, where I could start a task and finish it and feel like all the anguish and uncertainty might just be worth it in the long run. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, I had no friends and my “dream city” was feeling like a treacherous, unchartered galaxy, and me without a map. As soon as I could, I went back to CA to decompress.

When I returned to New York from that first Thanksgiving back in Sacramento, I made up my mind to find ways to feel less like an alien on a new planet. I invited a friend from Cali who was moving to New York to be my roommate (gentrification!).

Together, we rented a three bedroom palace (comparably) a few blocks away, still in Washington Heights. My roommate, also Chicana, was outgoing and had a lot of free time on her hands so we started to meet people from the neighborhood. After a while, I didn’t feel so completely alone. Having a roommate my own age helped. So did realizing that my Spanish was improving, locals were starting to recognize me as part of the blur in their day to day lives and I was surprised and amused to learn that people thought we were white.

My form of cultural gentrification included teaching the local drug dealers how to play chess — they taught my roommate and I how to break into the building when we lost our keys. I would go to the movies with a local boy who was as obsessed with film as he was with impossibly huge jeans. My roommate and I were shocked and disgusted to learn how our new friends despised the recent influx of immigrant Mexicans into the community. In their minds, Mexicans were at the bottom of the cultural food chain. They didn’t “belong” in The Heights. I saw Dominican teens knocking Mexican delivery boys off their bikes and stealing from them.

Our friends from the neighborhood somehow didn’t see us in the same way, were were “different.” Perhaps it was our “white girl” accents, or my mohawk, but our “Spanish” was – to them – an exotic, bizarre sort that insulated us from their judgements. In our case, being different was a good thing.

NOW
Five years later, I have come full circle.

A lot of things have changed — I have advanced professionally and New York feels more like home than Cali, even though I still don’t “feel” like a “New Yorker” and probably never will. I have my favorite places to go in the city.

However, eerily similar to my first few months in NY, is my living situation: I am in another cultural enclave  – the mostly African American (and “Spanish”) South Bronx. Once again, I am welcomed by many locals, although cultural tensions are often strained. I will be called “Mami” (the affectionate local term towards anyone who looks remotely “Spanish”) and “white bitch” in the same week, on the same block.

I didn’t move here in search of the “SoBro” that the New York Times trend-pieces describe, but to be closer to friends, save money and to have more space for my creative projects. I am in the process of moving into a loft space in the “artsy” Mott Haven clock tower building near the Bruckner Gallery & Cafe. I now realize that my own privilege allows me the freedom to move around as I please. I am grateful for that.

New York has helped me to find myself on different levels; as a media professional, student, artist, youth advocate and a light skinned Chicana (along with the cultural pros/cons of that).

After I hit “publish” on this post, I am taking the long trip to Jersey City to visit my former roommate, now great friend, where she will be serving up a delicious Thanksgiving meal. She lives in an enormous house with her boyfriend and good friend, where she uses the first floor to work on her fashion and accessories line. I’ll be able to see our mutual friend Tomas again, the artist who did the tattoo on my back.

Life is not perfect and it never will be. This is now easier for me to accept — the good with the bad, the uncertainty, learning to be patient and to continue to hope, dream and scheme.

I leave you with a video diary entry I made of myself in Washington Heights five years ago. It makes me happy to see that even in the midst of my confusion and frustration in a new world, there were still moments of joy and optimism.

Happy Day of Thanks