• 11.24-29.8 Couchsurfer Liliane Arizmendi – Hosted

    Liliane ArizmendiLiliane Arizmendi

     

    I picked up Liliane an hour after dropping another Giovanni off at the airport, trading one couchsurfer for another. The vibrant girl from Mexico was visiting for the first time since childhood. I quickly bonded with her after discovering series of similarities and character traits we both posses. As we joked on multiple occasions, it was like having an old friend over for a visit. Our common photography interest is only a small thread. Our thought exchanges include various philosophical, psychological and sociological ponders.

    In only regretted that she came to stay with me at a very strange time. There was a lot going on that kept me from being able to take around the city fully. She was more than understanding, sticking by my side like a trooper in all situations. She’s incredibly insightful and doesn’t take much for her to ‘get it’, any of what I was thinking or trying to say. It is a rare and lucky connection.

    Since she left me, we still keep in constant contact obsessing about pursuing our endeavors, so we can soon meet again, in a number of possible countries, for more crazy good times.

     

    Liliane Arizmendi II

    Liliane Arizmendi II

     

    Liliane Arizmendi III

    Liliane Arizmendi III


  • 11.3-17&22-26.8 Couchsurfer Giovanni Del Brenna – Hosted

    Giovanni Del Brenna - Venice Beach, CAGiovanni Del Brenna – Venice Beach, CA

     

    When I went crying aloud out to some of my closest friends – “Giovanni is a better photographer than me” I meant that in so many fundamental ways.

    Giovanni Del Brenna came to Los Angeles for a few weeks to finalize his “City” photography project. He started it some years ago already having done the other typical cities around the world. Hosting him actually required me to put on the heaviest of all thinking caps. What I had to consider were 1. What IS the essence of Los Angeles, 2. What are the visual representations?,  3. What are the daily strategies in ‘covering’ this massive city, 4. How am I going to cover him while he’s covering the city?, and 5. How can we not kill each other for having to be in such close proximity in so many days?

    As usual, I winged it for my part. The rest I just rode along with his schedule, whichever he decided upon. Watching his process was just incredible for me. It’s hard to explain. He’s like me but opposite? We notice the similar things – shapes, forms, functions, lights, situations – but we may frame them differently. His approach is much more direct and definite. The finalization process was even more prominently different. He decisively allocated shot rolls of film, or image files to specific destinations and purposes. He… was a model of a functional photographer. Also, to note, he has ALL my dream cameras – the professional ones – Leica, Xpan, D3, completely ready for any unexpected assignments of any forms. Needless to say, I learned so much.

    We ended up all over the place around mostly locally known landmarks. He actually did introduce me to The Ring in Santa Monica (apparently it’s world famous – a local spot I was entirely ignorant of.) I took him to some of my pre-planned events of a TFA fight, which we co-shot, and catching my favorite standup comedian Doug Stanhope one night. He got to meet all of my favorite friends, the fight girls at that TFA, Mike Watt when he joined for a radio recording in San Pedro, Nels Cline when he played a duo gig with David Sarno in Downtown LA….

    We got along really well, surprising for the strong headed photo persons that we each are. Gio, I think, ended up looking after my interest a bit. When I had 2 other couchsurfers come stay and share the space, I noticed him being a little protective, mildly questioning if it was my best interest to help out everyone. But there was one occasion he might have went too far – that was when he tried to explained to me the logic of Rubik’s Cube. At that point, I had to call him on it — Mr. former mechanical engineer turned photographer that he was…

    Parting with him after about a month (he went to Las Vegas for a week in between when I went to San Francisco) was a little sad. This is one down side of ‘couchsurfing’ is that inevitable departure of the new friend. Surely what I should focus on that little new marker on a map where Metz is in France, where Gio and his family live. Glancing at the global map with increase warmth of the imagined friendly human person residing in another part of the world, does give one the optimism of how the world can somehow become one through friendship networking.

     

    Gio on election day, LA, CA

    Gio on election day - Downtown LA, CA

    Gio reviews images at the Democrat official party, Century City, CA

    Gio reviews images at the Democrat official party, Century City, CA

    Gio in the mix

    Gio in the mix

    Gio at TWFPS - San Pedro, CA

    Gio at TWFPS - San Pedro, CA

    Gio watches Doug Stanhope after show

    Gio watches Doug Stanhope after show

    Gio at the driver seat

    Gio at the driver seat

    Gio and fellow couchsurfer Chris

    Gio and fellow couchsurfer Chris


  • 11.7-9.8 Couchsurfer Buci Chan – Hosted

    Buci Chan at Venice BeachBuci Chan at Venice Beach

    Not until after Buci left, I was to fully realize I didn’t have enough time with Buci at all. This is also judged by the fact that I can’t seem to have enough pictures of him to round up his character. Our later electronic communication revealed to me how interesting, and definitely fun, Buci is. I always have a deep fascination with Eurasians, but this one – introduced me some new angles only unique to him. (And I really like saying his name.)

    A French-Chinese from Malaysia, he truly exhibited the opposing cultures harmoniously. He had traveled everywhere and appeared very well rounded. He came to stay for a couple of nights when another couchsurfer Giovanni was already on my couch. They both find practicing Capoeira in common. They ended up hanging out with each other more as I kept excusing myself for naps. His departure came too soon when his friend, another couchsurfer, Chris, came to swoop him away eastward to Alhambra 10 miles from here. Giovanni and I followed them out for the last hang. Chris ended up treating all of us to an amazing Taiwanese-Chinese (late) breakfast. From there, I said good bye to Buci, not knowing when I’ll run into him again. Maybe Thailand?

     

    Buci at Venice Beach

    Buci at Venice Beach


  • 10.27-11.2.8 Couchsurfer Mark Stangroom – Hosted (1st hosting)

    Mark StangroomMark Stangroom

    Mark Mark… Mark…. I got a short notice contact from Mark requesting a one night stay at my place. Already I felt it was unjust for someone to come through Los Angeles to only pass through. From looking at his profile of interests, I immediately suggested that he may like to consider hanging around for another day when my friend Phebbie could show him her Kung Fu school in the early evening, and then to see my friend Scott Amendola from San Francisco play a concert in the evening. I picked him up from the Union station in Downtown LA on the 27th. It took some convincing for him to extend his stay. I mean, why wouldn’t you stay see the Halloween madness here? All in all I didn’t drop him off until 6 days later at the same place I picked him up.

    “He’s funny as shit!” my dearest of all friends Phebbie proclaimed once she met him. “Yes, he is!”, I immediately returned. That’s pretty much the general theme of having him around. My invitation for him to stay for the duration was substantiated… but not without the expense of slightly diminish the fun factor in the town of Truth or Consequences where he was heading next. What’s the hurry to go there?

    Mark is a genuine, sweet, honest, well rounded, and forever young at heart person. He’s also sensitive, polite, and considerate. Dragging him around to different places with me was just too fun. His natural curiosity, open mindedness, and the endless wit – was a sure winner to everyone I introduced him to. I got a chance to take him to Mike Watt’s internet radio recording on the 29th , a Krav Maga class, a run at the park, loooong walk TO the beach with a stop for the local famous Abbot’s Bagel Crust Pizza, and once we reached the beach, we did tandem bike riding (the most death defying joint experience  – where he kept accusing me of not contributing into the peddling.) The last day before I dropped him off at the train station, we went and grab some lunch at the Getty Museum to complete the Los Angeles experience.

    The blog he keeps for his 6 month adventure of the Americas is here. He is well missed.
     

    Mark at the Hammer Museum watching a concert

    Mark at the Hammer Museum watching a concert

    Mark at the Watt from Pedro Show recording

    Mark at the Watt from Pedro Show recording

    Mark on the back of the bus with me in LA

    Mark on the back of the bus with me in LA

    Mark in Chinatown near the "Rush Hour" chinese restaurant

    Mark in Chinatown near the "Rush Hour" chinese restaurant

    Mark catching up with his friend Heather in Culver City

    Mark catching up with his friend Heather in Culver City

    Mark at the Getty Center

    Mark at the Getty Center

    Mark's last day in LA at the Getty Center

    Mark's last day in LA at the Getty Center


  • 10.22-23.8 Couchsurfers Nagat and Bader Hasson- Hang

    Bader and NagatBader and Nagat

     

    Nagat and Bader are quite a pair. They are loving and excited about people, to learn, to talk, to share. The Arab Israeli couple met and married in Israel before moving to the US. Their 2 children were very coy, engaged, and all in all – adorable. 

    I got the chance to meet them at their home when I went to pick up another couchsurfer Meysam who was staying with them. We got on talking about all types of things, mostly about people and social situations. They both seem to think that it’s hard to find people of like minded to hang with in LA., I disagreed. Then again, my own interests and lifestyle are far different than theirs.

    Bader is especially hilarious. His crazy enthusiasm for all kinds of things cracked me up. For instant, he just got the cappuccino machine, and he was SO DETERMINED to get it right. The 2nd time I hung out with them over dinner that Meysam was treating all of us, this first part of the evening was evolved around him making and remaking the perfect cup of cappuccino. Then later he insisted that Nagat go find his new digital cameras to show me, seeing that I’m into photography. Later he wanted to show both me and Meysam these ornate  eggs he got from Russia. All the while Nagat looks on with the combination of putting up with and unconditioned acceptance, the love…
     

    Bader

    Bader

    Nagat approves this cup of cappuccino

    Nagat approves this cup of cappuccino

    Bader and Meysam

    Bader and Meysam

    the playful Emma

    the playful Emma

    the adorable Yury

    the adorable Yury


  • 10.22-23.8 Couchsurfer Meysam Haddadi – Hang (CS introduction)

    Couchsurfer Meysam

    Couchsurfer Meysam

    I heard about this couchsurfing website somewhere along the internet buzz line. I never gave that much thought about it UNTIL I suddenly found myself laid off of my (near) 6 year job. This brought me to reexamine my life. The first thought that comes to mind is that I want to travel everywhere all over the world. But for the specific moment, my situation has to be drastically reconfigured. In the meanwhile, I was looking around for  ways to travel when I visited the couchsurfing site. Looking at it more closely, and it dawned on to me that it might be the answer! What a concept it is… people networking with people, across different cultures, all over the world. I was immediately sold. 

    Since I’m not going out into the world anytime soon, I thought I’d bring the world to me. I’d better collect traveling brownie points by start hosting first. SO – my first was to be Meysam, from Germany, traveling through for a few days before heading to the east coast. Somehow our schedule didn’t connect, he ended up with a different host instead in West Los Angeles area. 

    On Wednesday, I picked him up from his host to take him to Rockreation, an indoor climbing gym. I failed Meysam by not passing the procedural belaying test using the stupid atc belaying device. So we could only messed around bouldering instead. I was hugely disappointed by letting him down. I haven’t climbed for ages, and when I did, I never took up the responsibility of belaying….. and if I ever did, it was some years ago with the figure 8, and shady piece of gear.

    Afterward I drove him across town to my place for a hang. On the way we passed downtown LA, so he got to see the magnificent city’s center (magnificent being sarcastic.) We had some wine and chatted about this and that. A moment like this I recognize for being unique for couchsurfing community – As you are being open to host someone, or to be hosted at someone’s home – you seem to be more open and chilled. I supposed it maybe the same personality trait, and our type just found the right channel to connect. At the moment of my writing this, I can think of ZERO of my friends… that would even considered surfing or hosting. I wonder what the percentage is?

    Meysam, a German of  Iranian descent living in Koln. His German accent makes me smile. He does some sort of engineering work back home. His demeanor was always considerate and easy going. We had fun chatting for a couple of hours before I took him back to Nagat’s.

    Thursday I checked in about 7 to see what he was up to. He happened to be finishing up cooking dinner for his host and invited me to join. I drove over and got there a little bit late, but he whipped out a plate for me anyway. The food was so delicious, being as simple as chicken, rice, with spices. His awesome host Nagat made a really incredible salad using pomegranate.  Then we hung out chatting with Nagat and her husband Bader for a bit before heading out for a drink. I took him to Marina Del Rey’s famous turtle racing Thursdays at Brennan’s bar. But we got there too late and missed the turtles. So we each had a drink before I took him back to Nagat’s and bid farewell. 

    Meysam at rockreation, West Los Angeles

    Meysam at rockreation, West Los Angeles

    Maysam at dinner table

    Maysam at dinner table

    CS Meysam with hosts Nagat and Bader

    CS Meysam with hosts Nagat and Bader