For those who were hoping the About page would tell them about the author, I am a professional actor with over 20 years experience doing film, TV and commercials. I’ve appeared in such things as Kill Bill, Enemy of the State, Friends and True Detective and played Leonardo DiCaprio’s sister in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
I have a Master’s Degree in creative writing and English literature from the University of South Alabama and was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014. I taught graduate students in the film department of University of New Orleans and English composition at a community college. I’ve produced a few things including the Quentin Tarantino presentation, Hell Ride, in which I played “Dani,” the owner of a biker bar. I even tried my hand at directing, garnering a couple of awards for my first short film, Intermission, and eventually directing Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss in 8 minutes of Lone Star Trixie.
In addition to this blog, I’ve written a book – Know Small Parts: An Actor’s Guide to Turning Minutes into Moments and Moments into a Career with foreword by Richard Dreyfuss. Know Small Parts is the book I was searching for when I started out. I wrote the book I most wanted to read, highlight, dog-ear and reference while navigating my career. I’ve learned so much from directors like Tony Scott, Quentin Tarantino and Sam Raimi and actors like Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine, Samuel L. Jackson, Dick Van Dyke and many more.
My novel, Lemonade Farm, is a 20 year labor of love set in a communal home in 1976. What starts as the coming-of-age odyssey of a hyper-aware preteen, evolves into the story of an era and the evolution of the American family.
When I first wrote this “About” page, it was an explanation of my inspiration for the blog. The tagline of L.A. to N.O.LA was “One woman’s journey from LaLaLand to the Big Easy.” I started the blog at the insistence of friends in Los Angeles who wanted a central place they could go to see what I was up to. I wrote it anonymously because my friends already knew the author. The first few months, I wrote about settling into a new city and a very old culture. I covered things like getting my car street legal and my first big storm. I didn’t know how to embed links or use tags, I just told stories and made observations and tried to include photos and the occasional video.
Then the Saints made their way to the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras arrived and I starting wanting the whole world to know what it felt like to be here for that slice of time. It felt so good to share about my growing love for the city that I started going to events in order to blog about them. Despite my ignorance about reaching a larger audience, my readership increased and LAtoNOLA is now read in over 100 countries.
Though I still write about moving from L.A. occasionally, L.A. to N.O.LA has become more of a resource. Whether you’re relocating here, planning a trip, or wondering if I caught your high school band on my video of a parade, I’ve tried to make the blog user friendly with categories, tags, a search engine and pages including my annual list of “favorite things” and links to most of the restaurants, musicians, clubs, events, charities, and cool things I’ve mentioned in L.A. to N.O.LA.
You can even find local t-shirts and greeting cards I’ve designed and articles I wrote for a local online paper, NOLA Defender, including interviews with Richard Dreyfuss and Jeff “The Dude” Dowd. And there’s my aunt Norma’s uplifting and often funny guide through loss, How to Be a Widow: A Journey from Grief to Growth, for which I wrote the introduction and epilogue and served as editor.
This was the story of “One woman’s journey from LaLaLand to the Big Easy,” but now I have arrived. New Orleans is my home and my heart. My focus now is on “Carnival, Concerts, Cuisine, Culture.” And the Saints. Who Dat!?!
Since writing my first post in late 2009, this blog continues to be a source of great joy and connection for me, a way of braiding my story with the city’s. The original “About” page, with it’s explanation of why I left L.A. and how I came to be in New Orleans, appears in its entirety below. I thank you for 5 years of ever-increasing readership and, if you haven’t already, I hope you will consider subscribing so you can receive email alerts when I post.
OLD “ABOUT” PAGE:
My family has been from Louisiana for generations so, if home is where the heart is, my home is Louisiana. However, I was born in our Nation’s Capitol, just below the Mason-Dixon line, but not actually Southern. And I felt that disconnect, like an adopted child longing to know where it came from, to understand its nature. Many of my happiest memories are dripping with the humidity, music, food, laughter, family, sno-balls, fireworks, street performers, fireflies, spanish moss, Mardi Gras beads, architecture, dancing, colorful characters, elegance, history and overwhelming indomitable spirit of the the Great State of Louisiana.
I’ve always wondered what my southern story is. Turns out it starts in the other L.A.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1992. I was a realist with a dreamer’s goal – to earn my living as an actor. Within 3 years of arriving, I’d achieved my goal and it has remained that way since. My nearly 18 years in L.A. were a big adventure filled with exotic travel and amazing individuals. I accomplished goals I hadn’t had the foresight to set when I first arrived. And I cultivated many lifelong friendships with people I might never have met any other way. BUT, if home is where the heart is, my heart was never truly at home in L.A.
I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I lived in L.A. and I don’t leave a circle of friends lightly and the idea of starting over is both exhilarating and exhausting, but Christmas 2008, I came back to Louisiana and within one day, I knew it was over with me and L.A. I began looking into moving to New Orleans as the new year began. I knew I’d want to give myself the experience of living in a true New Orleans home for at least my first year here. And I hoped I could continue to act for a living as my last two films were shot in Louisiana. Turns out they’re 3rd in the nation for filming, after L.A and New York (2nd in 2010). It’s not just the amazing incentives, it’s a full grown industry here with all the facilities and qualified personnel needed to shoot.
I found a place on Craigslist, walked “virtually” around the neighborhood on googlemaps, and researched everything within walking distance, the streetcar schedule, the closest theaters and my future favorite restaurants – all without ever leaving my modest condo-apartment in Hollywood.
Then, after Thanksgiving, I (my friends) packed up a truck and drove away from the sunset.
Leaving L.A. was like leaving a semi-abusive relationship I’d stayed in too long. My self-esteem was down and my guards were up. And, most insidious of all, my perspective was warped. How long had it been since I’d been in a nightclub full of women – and no enhanced breasts? When was the last time I left my house to go somewhere 10 miles away and gotten there in 15 minutes?
There are some moments in life that beg questions. Total strangers feel compelled to ask (and you to answer), “What’d you do to your arm?” when you’re wearing a cast. In college, it was, “What’s your major?” In L.A., it was, “Who’s your agent?” (Although my male friends say it was, “What do you drive?”) Since I’ve moved to New Orleans, both the people of L.A. and the people of New Orleans have all been asking why I left L.A. and/or why I moved to New Orleans. It’s really 2 separate questions so, for the record, here are the answers.
Top 3 reasons I left L.A. –
I got a movie made, which was a dream come true after 7 years of working to make it happen, and it was an amazing and wonderful experience so stained by cliche bad behavior I’d always heard about that I didn’t want to repeat the experience. That meant my dreams would have to evolve.
I was setting up another movie (I’m not just an eternal optimist, “This time will be different,” I’m also a creature of habit and loyalty) and it looked like the movie was going to happen. It potentially meant I’d get my biggest paycheck ever. I fantasized that maybe now I could be a homeowner again, as I had been so easily at 24 years old in Maryland. But when I looked at all the numbers, I realized that I could barely afford to purchase the 800 foot condo I was living in by then, much less buy a house. With the kind of check I was fantasizing about, there are literally hundreds of lovely homes in decent neighborhoods in New Orleans that I could have bought for cash.
And I had never intended to date in L.A. I was still married when I moved there and thought I would have a partner on my journey in a new career in a new town with all new people. Most people move to L.A. to pursue a dream, a single-minded vision of what their life could be. They separate themselves from all the dreamers who never leave their hometown and move thousands of miles to a place where they don’t know anyone or how to get around (and a lot of us moved there before GPS – ever heard of a Thomas Guide?) or who to trust or how to get started or which dentist to go to or even what to wear. A person willing to dive that far into the unknown to pursue a dream is to be admired. Even if they end up never doing more than bussing tables or valeting cars, they got up the couch and pursued their dream, they have moxie.
But people who pursue a single-minded vision of what they dream for themselves tend not to be great partners. And no one ever moved to L.A. to meet their soul mate (except stalkers). So, what’s a single girl to do? I focused on my career and did my best with dating. I learned to be happy single, though I hated not being paired. I made amazing friends, got reunited with my best friends from high school, found my favorite places to go and things to do and I went on big adventures. But, they say happiness shared is happiness doubled, sorrow shared is sorrow halved. I was living with half my potential happiness and double the sorrow. Every rejection, backstab, and failure was mine to process and every victory was mine to celebrate. I got good at doing both, but knew my nature was to couple. I began to wonder if I should stop trying to find a needle in a haystack and just move to a hayfield.
Top 3 reasons to move to New Orleans –
My family is from here for generations. If my father had gotten a job here out of college, I would have been born and raised here. Like that adopted kid who loves their parents but longs to understand why they are the way they are, I wanted to live in the culture that had been passed to me from my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. This is our dirt. My family has history here. Here, I meet people who know people in my family and once I met someone who turned out to BE family.
I feel normal here, not like an anthropologist studying humans to understand them. People are crazy everywhere but big cities have their own breeds of crazy. In the D.C. area, government is king. When Nancy Reagan was in the White House, everyone wore “Reagan Red” with gold. When Barbara Bush was there, they wore, “Bush Blue” with pearls. I wore things that made people look at me funny (that they’d end up wearing a few years later). In N.Y., people don’t interact unless they need you to move out of the way. I’d smile at people, make eye contact, say “crazy” things like, “How you doing?” and they’d look at me like I was a Martian. In L.A., I couldn’t make myself care who people’s agents were or what car anyone drove. Here, everyone celebrates everything. They even put the fun in funeral. Is it crazy to have so many festivals that you have a “Fete Festival” when the word “Fete” means “festival?” Sure, but is it wrong to have a festival celebrating festivals? Not in my book.
And the men. I followed my heart here. My gut told me that everything I was looking for, denying myself while I furthered my career, was right here where I always wanted to be. There are some amazing men in L.A., but people follow their hearts to New Orleans, not their dreams. I’ve never seen a city so in love with its city. These people are deeply committed to happiness and get it that pleasure is often followed by a hangover.
Oh yeah, and there’s also the food, music, culture, art, beauty, lifestyle, values, sno-balls, architecture, humor, character, exuberance and the indomitable nature of the people committed to this town and its football team.
I left L.A. for a thousand reasons, some of which have been enumerated, but I’m loathe to badmouth a place I CHOSE to live in for nearly 18 years. There’s plenty to love about L.A.. There’s weather (or the lack of it), some amazing people, my beloved canyon, amazing movie theaters and the mountains crash into the beaches with palm trees like upturned exclamation points saying, “Can you believe how beautiful this is?” L.A. is that charming, good looking sweet talker with an agenda. It’s seductive as hell but it confuses pleasure with happiness. It’s the boyfriend that’s with the prettiest girl in the room, but keeps it’s eye on the door in case a prettier one comes in.
New Orleans is the boyfriend I felt like I’ve known my whole life. It’s my soul mate.