Backpacking The Lost Coast Trail

COVID has funneled many of us outside. I was getting stir-crazy over summer last year, so I decided to do something about it. A few friends of mine told me they were going to backpack the 25-mile Lost Coast Trail in early fall — so after a week of research I asked if I could join them. They were happy to have me along, even if I did slow them down a bit. I wasn’t ready for the physical exertion that the trip promised (how was I to know?!) but they made sure I was geared up!

I was reminded earlier when reading about a woman who had been airlifted off the trail after being seriously injured. Then I read about a new 2.3-mile extension they built.

The Lost Coast Trail blew my mind away! We only spent four or five days hiking, but what an adventure it was! Parts of the trail disappear during high tide, which means you really need to pay attention to where you are and know the tiding schedule for that day. And even when the tide is out, sometimes the beach disappears in a sea of fog. It’s a foreign landscape I didn’t know existed here in the United States — but maybe I’ve just become accustomed to the LA desert.

The trail extends along the coastline in the King Range National Conservation Area. You might know it if you’ve ever gone through Humboldt County using Highway 1. That portion of the road is actually inland for about 90 miles without even touching the sea. It’s that rugged! And that’s what makes it a great nature experience, a great trail, and a challenging obstacle for novice backpackers — and I would definitely classify myself as a novice. 

Sound fun? It rained on us perpetually. I’d recommend going in June, July, August, or September when there is significantly less precipitation.

My Experience With Near-Financial Ruin During COVID

Over the last year I’ve had my fair share of money issues, mes amis — and let me say they were no fun. I’d lost my job temporarily because of COVID and didn’t realize that my landlords couldn’t kick me out or try to evict me while the pandemic was ongoing, so I started to think of ways I might save my financials. Remember, the French don’t like talking about money. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do. 

On a road trip to Texas over the summer, I was lucky enough to run into a pair of lawyers from Toronjo & Prosser Law. They helped me figure out that bankruptcy probably wasn’t in the cards for me (at least not while my financial situation was getting even worse), and that I should probably wait to see what the next year would bring. The laws in place to help victims of coronavirus would help me, they said. So I’ve waited. And thankfully my job has opened up again and I’m back at work.

But it got me thinking about all the differences between the United States and France or Europe when it comes to insolvency. Things work a lot differently overseas. The process does, anyway — we can still declare bankruptcy, so to speak.

Our petitions for bankruptcy in France certainly don’t take as long to process, and our legal representatives can get into a lot of trouble if they screw up. In the United States, everything takes forever while the government double-checks everything — and your lawyers basically get a slap on the wrist if they screw up, while you just get literally screwed. Okay, not literally. But you get the idea. Things are harder and more complicated here.

Bankruptcy in France is temporary and doesn’t last long. The average amount of time is only six months, and usually a business or credit is sold off by then. In the US, those who have declared bankruptcy are barred from doing it again for years and years — and this is why the lawyers from Texas told me I was better off waiting. To do otherwise would have resulted in a significant reduction in options if my finances didn’t turn around soon. And then I’d really have been in trouble.

Court in general is just very different in France. We didn’t even have access to class action lawsuits until 2014, while you guys have been suing everyone for everything for decades. Even then, the standards are much higher. Damage must be material, not just financial. A judgement is never final until the authorities let both parties know that it was rendered — and if you don’t know you’re not obligated one way or the other. Here, you’re just in trouble whether you know or not. It’s sort of like getting a jury summons. Not knowing isn’t necessarily an excuse.

How To Live And Think Like The French

Even though I’ve been living in the states for years, my identity as a French person hasn’t vanished altogether. I try not to take the life I’m leading for granted, and I don’t think anyone else should take their own life for granted either. On that basis alone, I still “live French” in more ways than one. Curious how you might change your life to live more like a French person? Here are a few things you can do.

Anyone who has lived in Paris will be familiar with the habits people develop there. Many smoke (I do not), many drink coffee (I do), and many will “people watch” from their balconies in the morning while doing both. Admittedly, I still do a lot of people watching. You’re fascinating.

The French are discreet in many ways of life. We don’t flaunt our wealth or material possessions. We don’t share as much as you do via social media. I’ve kept the lessons from home because I think they’re important. I don’t want someone prying into my life as much as they possibly can — which is why I don’t have a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account. 

French people have a deep appreciation for the arts. That’s not to say Americans don’t like a movie now and then, but in France you’re much more likely to hear us talking about an actual piece of art or an opera we liked.

We talk about everything in France. Here in the United States, there are lots of conversations that seem small-natured to me. You talk about money all the time. How much you make or what you do with it — who cares? It doesn’t help you live healthier or more content. 

You won’t necessarily find a French girl in the gym in the midst of a vigorous workout. We prefer to waste no time — and that means exercising while we move from place to place by using bike paths or walking. I definitely do this in LA, and I would suggest everyone else do the same. I don’t even have a car!

When I Was Hurt On The Job

I didn’t say anything about it at the time, but about a year ago I was hurt after getting a seasonal job during the holidays. It wasn’t my fault, but my boss still guilted me about it — and asked that we keep it “down low” because the injury wasn’t serious. But even a serious injury can end up costing an arm and a leg. Mes amis, urgent care cost me hundreds of dollars just for a few stitches! 

I was laid off after the season was over even though I wanted to keep the job. Later, I went to a workers comp attorney because I couldn’t get the injury — or what I paid — out of my head. The man who listened to my story asked what I wanted out of this, and I said I didn’t know. I told him I wanted to understand my options more than anything else. He was resolute: “It’s not about options. Your boss took advantage of the situation. You should sue.”

I’m not a helpless girl — far from it — but he seemed to think my boss might have assumed that cultural differences between the French and Americans might make it easier to avoid going through workers comp insurance, even though accidents happen all the time and there should have been no problem. In other countries, lawsuits aren’t so common. In other countries, people are sometimes forced to take care of themselves. That isn’t quite the case back home in France, but he probably doesn’t know that. He wasn’t that kind of man.

My attorney and I spoke virtually via video chat in recent months and he helped me decide that suing was my best means of recourse. At the very least, I want my money back. Much of what I made went to paying for medical expenses. But my attorney says I can also file a complaint because I may have lost my job more because I got hurt and less because I was a seasonal employee. So I’m not sure what will happen.

I’m only sharing this story because it’s important to me that other people realize they should never allow other people to get away with taking advantage of them. Business is a complicated world — especially here in the United States — but business owners and big corporations don’t have the right to make their own laws. 

The biggest mistake you can make is to wait. You forget little details you might need to win the case. The judge is less likely to believe your story. My attorney let me know that might be the situation in court — if we go — but that’s a chance we took. He still hopes to settle with the company I worked for, and I let him know that I never want to work there again. I made friends there, but it was a terrible job.

We probably all have those stories.

When Will We Get the COVID Vaccine?

Mes amis, I’m worried. I’ve been worried all year, of course, but a hopeful start to 2021 hasn’t made me forget about everything that happened in 2020. The entire world is faced with the gargantuan task of rolling out a vaccine that was conceived, prototyped, and trialed — all within 12 months. And it’s becoming clear that not all of us were truly created equal. And that’s fine, because right now we need equity, not equality.

In the United States, the oldest in society receive the vaccine first. That’s not the case everywhere in the world. In my home country of France, for example, the government has stated that there is little scientific evidence to show the effectiveness of the vaccine in the older population. 

President Emmanuel Macron said, “For this AstraZeneca vaccine, we will not propose it to those older than 65.”

That was a scary moment, since the older you are the more vulnerable to COVID-19 you become. But Macron claims that the vaccine will become widely available to the public by the end of summer. That’s a long wait.

For those of us here in the U.S., things don’t look much different — except that the older populations and those living in nursing homes will receive the vaccine first. And that makes sense. That’s the equitable solution. They need it. We don’t.

Probably the biggest obstacle is convincing our essential workers that they should actually get the vaccine. As of now, the injections are voluntary. The Los Angeles Fire Department has access to enough vaccines for all its staff, but barely more than half have opted to receive it. The fire department is on our front lines — more so than people realize. It doesn’t make sense that they decide not to get the vaccine.

Until we can find a way to show people that the science works, this pandemic will probably continue longer than it should. And that’s what really scares me.

Rumors About LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Potential Role In The Biden Administration

Suffice it to say, our city has been through a lot over the past few years. Many immigrants live in Los Angeles and the surrounding cities of California — so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that our people aren’t exactly divided on Biden’s 2020 victory. We’re happy. We think everyone should be happy. I say this as a “visitor” myself (even though I’ve been here many years at this point and have learned the language and customs fairly well, no matter how different they are from my own back home in France).

Black Lives Matter didn’t take well to the rumor that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti might play a role in the upcoming Biden administration. The rumors suggest that he might be offered a fairly important role as Secretary of Transportation or Housing and Urban Development. 

Garcetti denied that he was “seeking” any such role in Biden’s Cabinet, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t take one if it was offered.

Garcetti said, “I have been focused 110% on these numbers and on COVID and on saving lives. It’s one of the last things on my mind right now. You know, we have deaths that are going to be increasing, we have record numbers of cases and so I don’t have anything to add on that not because I have anything to hide, I just have nothing to add. Right now my job number one is to make sure to protect the lives of Angelenos.”

BLM wasn’t unhappy about the possibility that Garcetti might be leaving, however. The protestors were lamenting the fact that he’s allegedly done a poor job of organizing housing and development in our own city, especially when it comes to providing it to the homeless. Transportation is another huge issue — ask any Angeleno — and he’s done very little to remedy the situation.

The mayor of LA has always been an important position because it can have an impact on all of Southern California. Much like the United States is supposed to “lead” the world in many areas, so too does Los Angeles lead the rest of our state. Garcetti has failed in that regard.

Garcetti isn’t the only potential pick from Southern California. Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas is also rooted in Los Angeles. His family was originally from Cuba before they fled to the states. Mayorkas went to Beverly Hills High before studying at Loyola Marymount Law School. He served as U.S. Attorney in Central California, and has held a number of other important positions during his tenure.

What does this all have to do with my life? For me, it’s interesting to say that these potential picks for roles in higher government inspire some pride — even though I’m not originally from Los Angeles. I think that means this is finally home. The funny thing? I always thought my life here would be temporary. I thought I’d go back home eventually. Now, I don’t feel that way.

My Thoughts On Terrorism In France

The last week has been hard on me. On one hand, I know I’m safe here in the United States — or at least safer than I would be anywhere in Europe. But on the other hand, I have to worry about family and friends I have back home. Terrorism in France isn’t going away no matter how hard we try to fight against injustice and violence and open our hearts to free speech and differing opinions. Why would anyone be against it? I don’t know.

What I find especially disconcerting, though, is the fact that a person can be beheaded anywhere in the civilized, industrialized world, and we barely see it in the news — if at all — because we’re too focused on what crazy President Trump said or did today. 

But it’s also a problem for the Islamic community. I believe there’s nothing wrong with being a devout or practicing Muslim, just like I believe there’s nothing wrong with being Christian, Jewish, or Hindu; like I believe there’s nothing wrong with being old or young, gay or straight, rich or poor, pro-life or pro-choice, Texan or California, French or Hispanic. What does any of that matter? We all come from the same place. We all start off the same way — until our leaders change us beyond the point of no return.

That’s exactly why free speech is so important. When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I was only a French girl with broken English — but my friends embraced me and helped me until I learned. Look at me now!

We live in a world where anything is possible, but that shouldn’t depend on where you live. The recent debate in France was sparked by a horrendous terrorist act, but that shouldn’t mean we give up on hope or humanity or our rights and freedoms. We need to do better. Before that, we should start to think better!

COVID-19 In Los Angeles

These are trying times for me — I’ve been constantly wrestling with the idea of staying or going back home to France because I have elderly family who could use some help. But travel during a coronavirus pandemic is scary! And President Trump downplaying the virus has led to a lot of controversy over a subject that shouldn’t be all that controversial. To make matters worse, he failed to give us federal aid for the wildfire emergencies, suggesting it was all our fault.

It seems like I’ve suffered a devastating brain injury California from which there is no recovery. And things are only getting worse, it seems. Case counts are on the rise but officials are bent on loosening restrictions on businesses where people seem to get sick most often. I’m all for reopening Disney as soon as possible, but it should be done with everyone’s safety in mind. Not everyone agrees with me.

A big Disney fan, Dusty Sage, mentioned the restrictions to the local news: “I think it was the worst possible, sort of, outcome for disney. There were signs this was coming. Disney has been at odds with the state, but this is certainly terrible news for the entire economy of Anaheim and for Disney.”

Is one enormous company really so important that we need to put people’s lives at stake?

The issue appears that Anaheim’s economy is 50 percent whatever is generated by Disneyland. Officials in the surrounding areas are even worried that smaller parks will have to close down. Disney is rich enough to weather the storm. 

Los Angeles has allowed certain schools to reopen by waiver — and all of them are private schools. Public schools are mostly conducted over video chat and electronically.

It’s hard to blame those people who want to reopen the city. But we’ve made so much progress and we don’t want to reverse it! The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said there were only 13 deaths last weekend and only 358 new cases. That makes the total number of cases in LA County 288,451 as of last weekend, but that also represents nearly 1,000 hospitalizations — and also nearly a third of the total capacity for the ICU, which handles most coronavirus cases that get serious. If it gets overtaxed, then people suffering from other ailments mind find it difficult to find the help they need!

These numbers mean that the burden on our healthcare system is diminishing, but reducing restrictions could open the floodgates again. Cases are “surging” in France too, which makes me wonder what I should do. Traveling home means putting myself at risk on a stuffy airplane, and that would put anyone I meet at risk too. There is a new curfew in place because of the increase in cases. I’m worried that it will just keep getting worse and worse until the decision is taken out of my hands. What should I do?

Violence In Los Angeles Made Me Ask Myself If I Should Stay

When one travels to the United States, one visualizes the motto “land of the free” and what it means to the people who reside there. The international community does this often, especially in regard to the U.S. more so than any other country. It might surprise some of my readers to know that we’ve long suspected the tensions in the U.S. could culminate in a race war. These events that you thought you would never live to see in your own country? They were predicted long ago — by almost everyone else.

And it’s these events that keep me questioning whether or not I should extend my visa and continue to live and work here. Los Angeles is a fun city. The people here are forward thinking. That even in such a liberal bastion the police force could be inspired to become violent with protesters — the majority of whom have been entirely peaceful — is awe-inspiring in the most horrific way imaginable. 

What were they thinking?

Brutality — or “domination” as the American president calls it — is only certain to escalate tensions further and further. The superiors of the four police officers (you know who) know this for a fact. Otherwise they would not have arrested and charged four of their own.

Truth be told, it isn’t just this escalation in racial tensions that has me thinking of leaving this country that has been my home for years now. It’s the near-certainty that the next 12 months will prove even more chaotic. Can you imagine what Trump will do if he loses the election? I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a concession speech or a peaceful transition of power, both standards in American government. Can you imagine what will happen if he wins? His blindly loyal followers will once again jump on their high horses to assert their “rightness.”

I’m not sure I want to be around to see either of these two paths play out.

What It’s Like In Los Angeles During The Coronavirus Outbreak

My family in France is hurting. My home country has closed its borders — which are always open because of its place in the European Union — but that isn’t all. My mother requires a form to leave home! She isn’t allowed to go outside to visit family or friends. Over 100,000 police officers have been deployed to keep order as tens of thousands have been diagnosed with covid-19. The country is basically closed down for business.

But it’s not what’s happening over there that has me worried!

It’s what’s happening over here in my home away from home — and how little we’re doing to prevent the spread of this virus compared to other countries where it’s already blown up. Sure, it might sound like the United States is taking drastic action. Local governments have advised against large gatherings. They’ve asked people to hunker down. Bars and clubs have closed. Restaurants, too. Schools are cancelling class. Colleges are kicking kids out of their dorms.

But this isn’t enough! The very possibility of a national shutdown terrifies people here. Maybe it’s the cultural differences between us, but the possibility of not shutting down is what terrifies me. The mayor of New York City has said he has no interest in quarantining the city.

The disparity between people who take this crisis too seriously and those who don’t take it seriously enough is widening. But those who take it too seriously will soon be transformed into those who were taking it just seriously enough the whole time.

What do I mean, you ask?

Take the Spanish flu of 1918 for example. It had a fatality rate of around 2.5 percent. Seasonal flu falls at .1 percent. Covid-19 falls closer to the Spanish flu at around 2.0 percent. The reproduction rate of these illnesses help us determine how contagious they are. Seasonal flu falls at 1.3, which means an infected person might be expected to infect slightly more than one person on average. Spanish flu was 1.8. Covid-19 is a whopping 2.3.

Don’t forget: Spanish flu killed up to 50 million people when the world’s population was only 1.9 billion. Because covid-19 has so much more in common with the Spanish flu than the seasonal flu, you might imagine how many people would die in a world of 7.8 billion souls if we didn’t take drastic actions.

Spanish flu hit in the midst of WWI — a war in which my great grandfather fought and died, not in combat, but from respiratory sickness! We couldn’t do anything then. But we can do something now. And we’re failing to do it.