New Zealand scriptwriter Sarah Nathan is living her dream in Tinseltown.
A good writer is always open to new experiences, and that's exactly what Sarah Nathan did when she gave up her secure life in Auckland - house in Herne Bay, career writing scripts for television - and moved to Los Angeles. Today she spends her time writing from her home in the hip suburb of Los Feliz, in West Hollywood. Nathan has two original TV pilot scripts currently being read by producers, is developing a new TV comedy and working on a novel "It's a trashy beach read based on the lives and loves of the rich and famous in Los Angeles and the French Riviera, with a bit of New Zealand thrown in there too,", plus, in true Hollywood style "a couple of professional projects that I'm not at liberty to discuss".
"Everything takes a long time in LA - it's very much 'hurry up and wait'. But it's such fun living here, that it's not such a hardship," she says. A lover of all good things, Nathan shares a slice of her life in in LA.
The best thing about living in LA, apart from the climate and the gardens, is the size. The department stores are huge. Their sales are huge and everyone seems to be on sale all the time - even the big designers. I've seen Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu shoes at 70 per cent off. And yes, I did weaken - the psychological pain of not buying them seemed to outweigh my budgetary constraints at the time.
But the city is also so large that the bars and cafes are even bustling on a Monday or Tuesday night. And Griffith Park, which is an amazing place to go for a hike (well, a walk, really) is the largest urban park in America. I've seen coyotes, deer and rabbits up there, but no rattlesnakes - yet.
The worst thing is also the size. I have friends in Santa Monica I manage to see only once a year. It's a 40-minute drive without traffic, or two hours in peak traffic. You tend to get lazy, socialising and dining in your own neighbourhood or a few surrounding suburbs. And Los Angelenos like to live close to where they work for the same reason. Another drawback to LA is the dirt. I don't enjoy dusting, vacuuming and mopping but the filthy black grit that settles on everything is disturbing for someone who likes to walk around barefoot at home.
When it comes to fashion/style/looking good it seems to me that LA is a place where less is more. If you're too glam or polished you'll look like a bit of a try-hard. The idea is to look boho effortless: a slender black sundress, a few of-the-moment necklaces, some strappy flat sandals or investment heels and - crucially - the right casually chic handbag. As a would-be over-dresser with a handbag blind-spot and a non-gym-buffed body I find this quite irksome.
Since I've moved to LA my look has gotten more casual and less amusing. There's not much of a sense of humour about clothing over here. Then again, I would dress like Carmen Miranda every day if I could.
My best fashion find was a vintage Pucci shirt in pink and beige at the massive Rosebowl Flea Market, held the second Sunday of every month.
The last thing I bought was a black v-neck T-shirt dress (well, two actually, to bring my total to five) by mail-order. They were $17 each. Yes, I often buy in multiples.
I would describe my shopping habits as thwarted.
The most treasured piece in my wardrobe is a gauzy, ivory Martin Margiela shift dress printed to look like studded-leather couch material bought on sale at Zambesi. And my vintage Pucci scarf collection. And my strappy, gold Miu Miu stiletto sandals - 70 per cent off.
I love the style of Liz Taylor in the 70s - big sunglasses, head-scarves, maxi-dresses.
My most glamorous LA moment was when it happens, I'll be sure to let you know.
To keep looking and feeling this good I drink plenty of gin and tonic, indulge in minimal hiking and yoga, and abstain entirely from dieting, fasting and juice-cleansing.
In my beauty bag you'll find a bottle of Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Airbrush foundation from Barneys (thanks Mum and Dad!), YSL Liquid Eyeliner in Khaki, Maybelline Define-A-Lash Mascara and a battered array of M.A.C eye shadows.
I'd just like to add that Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles seem to be on some kind of stylistic continuum, much like Wellington, Melbourne and San Francisco. There's a kinship to the cities that makes LA an easy place to love if you love Auckland. I feel very at home here and, absurdly, it feels as though all my family and friends merely live at the far end of the freeway.
Another unusual thing is that everyone is car-obsessed and car-judgmental here. Luckily for me no-one expects writers to be on the cutting edge, but if you're in business and you're not leasing a late-model European car for $400 a month they think you're a loser.
I knew I had finally become a true Los Angeleno when I drove past a woman blowing bubbles on a street corner. Instead of thinking "how magical" I was enraged that she was thoughtlessly messing up my car after a $15 car-wash.
SARAH'S LITTLE BLACK BOOK
It's not a place exactly, but yelp.com is my online bible. I always check out this wiki-review website to find the best eats, bars, hairdressers - even doctors.
The Dresden Lounge
1760 N. Vermont Ave, Los Feliz
An old-school lounge bar with a good-looking hipster crowd listening only semi-ironically to legendary couple Marty and Elayne, who've been playing and crooning jazzy standards there since the early 80s. Look out for a cameo of them (and The Dresden) in the movie Swingers.
3806 W. Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake
Fantastic Mexican food. $1.25 for a small carne asada (spicy beef) soft taco, with guacamole, hot sauce and a squeeze of key lime? I'll take two. This is their review page on Yelp.com.
3822 W. Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake
My favourite dress shop. The owner sits at her sewing machine behind the counter whipping up cute frocks from vintage fabric. They do a great line in 70s-inspired maxi-dresses.
Tiki Ti Bar
4427 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Feliz
A seriously tiny, seriously idiosyncratic island-themed cocktail shack. Their rum-based cocktail list is extensive but doesn't identify any ingredients, so it's a total pot luck. And when someone orders their famous Uga Booga cocktail, the patrons chant "Uga Booga, Uga Booga" while the bartender pours.
The Greek Theatre
2700 N. Vermont Ave, Los Feliz
An outdoor music amphitheatre like a miniature Western Springs, complete with a faux Greek temple for a stage. I saw Flight of the Conchords in an amazing sell-out concert here (and a second time at the Hollywood Bowl - another fabulous outdoor venue). Neil Diamond is currently giving four Hot August Night concerts at the Greek to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of his recording of, you guessed it, Hot August Night Live At The Greek.
Griffith Park Observatory
2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Feliz
No longer a working observatory, this gorgeous building houses a small astronomy museum and is a great spot to drive up to if you want a view out over the city. From there it's an easy 35-minute walk up the wide, gently sloping path of the Charlie Turner Trail (which starts at the Observatory carpark) to the top of Mt Hollywood for a truly spectacular 360-degree view of the city, and of the Hollywood sign atop Mt Lee. It's my favourite hike and almost a spiritual experience.
Golden Bridge Yoga Studio
1357 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles
There's no better place to don a white head-scarf and open your chakras under the benevolent tutelage of some serious yogis.