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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


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95646, Kirkwood

Enjoying the apres-ski at Kirkwood

Dear ——–,

Every mountain has its signature run and “The Wall” at Kirkwood was worth doing over and over again. (The skull and crossbones signs warning “Experts only” only egged us on.) Kirkwood had an amazing number of tasty trails for a resort so modest. (Another favorite: Sentinel Bowl.) Though it hadn’t snowed in a few days, the terrain was in terrific condition — evenly groomed hard-pack with a soft coat on top. The six of us — Jen, Andrew and their friends Daniel and Imogen — were coincidentally very comparably skilled so we roamed all over the mountain together. I got more accustomed to my new Stockli skis and started attacking the ungroomed trails with gusto. We finished up our days at the Tower Bar with a round of “Chair 14″s (hot chocolate, Jameson’s, Bailey’s and Kahlua). At night, we curled up in adorable wooden cabins at Sorensen’s, where we didn’t miss TV but did miss the internet. We got our Mammoth fix on the way home to L.A. I was a little worried our home mountain wouldn’t hold up after a lovely weekend at Tahoe, but Cornice Bowl was as good as ever.


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89449, Stateline


Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada

Dear ——–,

At the top of one of the lifts at Heavenly, there was a sign with an arrow for California to the left and Nevada to the right. Nevada looked like a brown dust bowl. California shone bright and blue, with Lake Tahoe sparkling in the sun. I’m sure the first pioneers who saw this view went west. Bryan and I savored the panorama as we whipped down groomed trails lightly frosted with powder. We got so over-confident that we tried to tackle a double-black-diamond trail near the bottom of the mountain. That was a total mistake. The moguls had frozen over and were re-melting in the afternoon sun. We couldn’t wait to get back to the steep, hard-pack trails again. Later that afternoon, we slid to a stop on some flats because we didn’t know the trails very well. But I guess that’s all part of the adventure of trying a new mountain.


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90012, Downtown Los Angeles

An evening of dance and evangelism at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Dear ——–,

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was packed, but I’m not sure everyone knew what they were in for. Billed as Chinese cultural show, the night featured plenty of swishing pink ribbons and leaping kicks. But then there were scenes of authoritarian thugs beating up followers of Falun Dafa (another term for Falun Gong) and the words “Falun Dafa is good” projected across the background screen. I don’t know enough to judge whether the group is truly a cult or a new spiritual democratic movement. But they are definitely clever delivering their message. They were embedding the Falun Dafa story — which apparently only started in the 1990s — within a narrative of hundreds of years of self-described “authentic,” classical Chinese history. Chinese people who are proud of their culture are predisposed to feel positively about these dances; non-Chinese people are drawn in by the feathers and silk. Their singers sang arias to a “Lord God,” vocabulary that probably helps make Christians sympathetic to their cause. The whole night was a little confusing, though I did enjoy the erhu segment. For a few minutes, it felt like something genuine.


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90013, Downtown Los Angeles

Coffee at Banquette after volunteering for WriteGirl

Dear ——–,

I went to a poetry workshop on Saturday for WriteGirl, an L.A. nonprofit that helps high school girls find self-expression through writing, runs weekly programs at some of the poorest schools and helps the girls get into college. (They’re still looking for volunteers!) It’s been a pretty positive experience — all the girls I’ve worked with plunge excitedly into the exercises and bloom under the encouragement. At the session, one girl ran her hand over the cement wall of the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex and described it as cool, unemotional, like a guy who never lets you know what he’s thinking. I was impressed. Afterward, Erika, Molly and I headed a few blocks over for coffee. Unfortunately, Lot 44 was only open on the weekdays. Groundwork closed at 3 p.m. So we settled into a booth at Banquette with some lattes and talked about the future of journalism, dealing with unreasonable family members, and finding ourselves now on the other side of college interviews. Groups of people came, dined and went. We walked back to our cars past the hot pink glow of the Museum of Neon Art. I felt suddenly nostalgic for downtown.