California Dreaming – My year in Hell.A by Matt Ryan
So the California dream is coming to a slightly abrupt close. The plan was to be here for 2 years or so but last March we found out that the wife was pregnant which was totally unplanned and unexpected- so much so that we knew pretty much immediately that to juggle a new born baby alongside our crazy 3 year old daughter Agnes Boo was probably going to be a bridge too far – probably a couple of bridges too far if I’m being honest. The dream continues back in the UK where due to my wife’s work I’ll be setting up shop darn sarf , the big smoke in the land of bizarre rhyming slang ( London if you didn’t get the clues). But the good news is I’ll be back in God’s little acre (Manchester) far more frequently than I have been for the past 12 months to lead workshops and cover classes – to make sure you are all behaving yourselves and not skipping postures or vinyasas.
Los Angeles has been an adventure in a kind of updog downdog kinda way – just like life itself – it’s been both good and bad. Remember the metaphor of the cardiograph? What happens when you see a straight line on a cardiograph? No it’s not a trick question , a straight line means you’re brown bread (oh no the rhyming slang has started to happen and I’m not even there yet , guvnor ; ) ! And when you see a line that goes up then down then up then down etc etc on the monitor? Means you’re alive right? And that my young Padawan is like life itself, it’s up then its down – you can’t have one without the other more importantly you can’t expect to have one without the other. To be up and then to be down is to be ALIVE! Like the old Zen saying when you are happy be happy, when you are sad be sad – no problem.
Rather than tell you of the not so good/downdog things that have happened over the past 12 months I thought I’d give you a couple of the most fabulous ones….
So here we go – in no particular order..
Eating lunch in a small 2 table café sat next to Michael Keaton. I was with Boo (my daughter) and I was going to ask him for a photo with her so I could put on Facebook ‘When Boo met Batman’ but I bottled it. He did give us a nice smile though.
In the first couple of months we were here we got invited to a VIP only (it’s not what you know but who you know out here and we knew a man who can ok darlings!!??) photography exhibition – it was of actress Elizabeth Taylor’s home and personal things. I was stood having a gander at a photo of Liz’s front room when I realised I was stood next to Will Ferrell. I turned and shouted at the top of my voice ‘SANTA’ – ok I didn’t actually do that – but I wanted to. He’s bloody massive at least about seven foot tall.
Whilst we were out here my (Swedish) wife enrolled Boo our daughter in a weekly Swedish School meeting – it was a pretty low key affair where once a week for a couple of hours kids of a similar age got to play with each other and sit and sing along to Swedish nursery rhymes (everyone was expected to speak Swedish I only know about 2 words and one of them is Ikea, so I just hummed along) I was sat doing my best incy wincy spider hum when I noticed that the bloke sat opposite me was Owen Wilson’s doppleganger , and then I realised it was Owen bloody Wilson. I found out afterwards his wife is Swedish and he takes his kids there sometimes. Small world eh!
Discovering that I’m not too old (at 47) to still be doing the advanced A series (3rd Series) of Ashtanga Yoga (and the odd bit of 4th when I was feeling a little fruity!) I remember reading a blog a couple of years ago that was written by some bloke who was in his forties who basically said that he was quitting doing the Ashtanga advanced sequences because it’s bloody hard work , he was knackered all the time and he also never had any energy for his family. I remember reading it thinking he was a lightweight but then realising that I too was knackered all the time and I never wanted to do anything with my family because I was always too tired. I put 2 and 2 together and hey presto I quit advanced sequences too for a justifiable reason hurray! But then last year I landed in the California sunshine with some new found energy and verve which breathed new yoga life into my knackered old body and before long I was throwing myself around the 3rd series like a man half my age YEEHAR ! Can’t say what’ll happen when I get back to Blighty with the cold wet and windy weather…. watch this space!
The time the car caught on fire.
We’d only been here a couple of weeks and instead of buying a car we decided to lease one from my wife’s work colleague. It was a massive Princess Anne style Range Rover – it was like driving a bloody tank. We’d only had it for an hour when the stupid thing broke down. We called Wayne (the work colleague) who was extremely apologetic and said he would come immediately to try and fix it. After 15 minutes Wayne rocked up in a ’68 dark green VW Beetle .Wow I’m not much of a car enthusiast but boy oh boy oh boy I do love the old style VW Bug – and it was actually older than me! Wayne good chap that he is agreed to lend us the Beetle whilst he sorted the Range Rover out. Big Mistake. As soon as I got in the car it was baking hot – no A.C. in a 68 bug is there – and one needs A.C. in the hotter than the sun roads of L.A. Then as I started to drive the car it became apparent that this was more like driving a tank than the Princess Anne mobile. We drove straight home and waited for Wayne’s call to let us know the other car had been fixed and we could swap back. Late afternoon Wayne called to say our car was ready and could I drive over to his place to pick it up and drop the Beetle off – one last ride in the not so fabulous VW Bug. It was a short 10 minute journey to Wayne’s house via the freeway. Coming off the slip road up a slight hill the bloody car stalled and then wouldn’t start. ‘You are kidding me’ I thought to myself – 2 cars breaking down in one day from the same bloke – what are the odds? Luckily the slip road I was stuck on had 2 lanes and most cars managed to get past me as I tried in vain to get the car started. Soon enough people started beeping horns and gesticulating at me which given the day I’d had wasn’t going down well – let’s put it this way I had a few gesticulations of my own for my fellow travelers. The horns got louder and people’s faces got more animated and as I wound down my window to give out a few non yogic verbals some lass in a car alongside me screamed ‘YOUR CAR IS ON FIRE’ I turned around to see smoke billowing from the back of the car so I jumped out pronto to watch 6 foot flames shooting out from the engine (the engine is in the boot on a VW Beetle) OMG I thought – or maybe I shouted it and probably with one or two f bombs. Other drivers had jumped out of their cars too and headed over with large palm leaves to try and fan the flow of the flames , I thought the whole thing was gonna blow up any second- it was like being in a movie. I suddenly remembered that I had seen a fire extinguisher in the back seat of the Bug when we picked it up. My mind was going like the clappers – do I go and get the fire extinguisher or will the car blow up with me inside it – what a way to go. I could read my epitaph ‘Hopes and Dreams of a second rate Yoga teacher from Manchester go up in flames , literally’ So risking life and limb I jumped back in the car pulled out the fire extinguisher and ran round to the back of the car. I now felt like John McClane from Die Hard, which unfortunately passed very quickly when I realised the bonnet wouldn’t stay open as the hinge had broken and the only way to keep it open was to use my right foot whilst I hopped up and down on my left foot spraying the flames- I went from feeling like John McClane to Basil Fawlty in the bat of an eye. Not a good look for a yoga teacher. Fortunately I managed to extinguish the flames without the car blowing up – in the words of Stephen Patrick Morrisey ‘We can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible’.
People are strange and wonderful.
Just before arriving in L.A. one of my mates had said that I would never make it work in the USA as I wouldn’t be able to get on with Americans – rather a sweeping generalisation which I took with a huge pinch of salt. It did take me a month or two to get my bearings and also get a grasp on the culture which if I am being honest was a lot different than I thought it would be. It wasn’t bad or good just different. And most people didn’t get my jokes (my wife’s response was that people didn’t laugh at my jokes because they weren’t funny – I begged to differ). And no I didn’t get my teeth whitened or started saying ‘AWESOME’ a lot. I stuck to my Mancunion principles of just being who I was and eventually I made friends with some truly amazing incredible people. Outside of teaching yoga I was part of a creative collective called ‘Hell.A’ .This was my idea – a ‘cute’ little pun (pinched from comedian Bill Hicks) on L.A. The Hell.A collective was a bunch of creative people including designers musicians artists and a yoga teacher. We met regularly to discuss various themes including the idea mentioned above of the ups and downs of life, the lights and darks of the world- this particular idea culminated with our first t-shirt design – worn fabulously by own good self in the photo above. Click here if you want to treat yourself to a very limited edition Hell.A t-shirt. I am hoping to remain part of the group (if they’ll have me!!)
Perhaps over the coming months I’ll write a little more about my time in Los Angeles there’s a few more stories to make you laugh (and me cry) including yet another motoring meltdown. I am definitely pleased we were bold enough to move there – even if it was only for a year. And most importantly I learned a valuable life lesson ‘if you’re gonna be a bear be a grizzly’! (i.e. Live life to the full)
For info on me in London click here.