A year ago, I bought a single family home in a very lovely suburb of Los Angeles, CA.
When I first visited it, I liked it but thought it wasn’t quite right. The two bathrooms were small. The only entrance to the third bedroom was through the second bedroom. It really needed some cosmetic changes. My realtor / master property flipper, YingYing Zhang (contact info at end of post), was very smart and told me to buy it because 1) the location was great (it was safe, quiet, in a terrific city with a great public school district), 2) the overall square foot lot size was big and would allow me to expand the house, and 3) the price of the house was actually reasonable for LA standards, even though I did have to bid above the asking price to get the house.
YingYing encouraged me to expand the third bedroom into a proper master bedroom, expand the second bathroom into a proper master bathroom, and add a third guest bathroom. A lot of other things needed to be changed too: the HVAC had to be completely replaced, new plumbing, wiring, painting, floors, fixtures, etc, had to be added. I needed to have a place to do laundry. There was a lot of work that needed to be done. I couldn’t afford to buy one of those “ready to move in” homes so I agreed with her suggestions and bought the house.
A year later, after living out of a suitcase in a disheveled, messy space, the project is finally complete and I can FINALLY move in for real. YingYing’s suggestions were spot on and I love my new home. My post below will explain the steps needed to add an addition to your house.
Before I go on, I want to add a disclaimer:
There are many construction projects that spiral out of control. People don’t think carefully about their budget and spend way more than they thought they would. They don’t communicate well with the contractor. The contractor doesn’t do good work. Etc. I know there are a lot of fancy, well-lit HGTV shows that use editing to make everything seem easy-peasy, but it’s really not very glamorous at all in reality. And it can be very expensive. I don’t have unlimited money, and most people don’t either.
I would not encourage anyone to engage in a major construction project to their house if this doesn’t increase the value of their house. LA’s real estate prices have lost their damn mind a long time ago and so I knew my construction project would be a great financial investment. There are many places around the US where home prices DO NOT appreciate. In those areas, unless this is a family home that you plan to keep forever, I would not engage in construction projects. Save yourself the money and stress.
Having said all that, here are the steps needed to add an addition to your house.
1. Hire an architect to draw up plans for your house (I used Steve Sun; contact info at end of post)
2. Hire a structural engineer to work with your architect (I used Jim Wang; contact info at end of post)
3. Submit your plans to the city to get permit approval. It look seven months for the city to approve my plans. It is REALLY, REALLY important to get permits for your work. Get it done correctly right from the beginning.
4. Conduct an asbestos test on your residence to see if asbestos need to be removed before construction starts. My house unfortunately did have asbestos and I had to pay to get it removed. It wasn’t cheap but the area needs to be safe for the demolition to happen.
5. Hire a contractor to do the construction work (I used Build Method Construction; contact info at end of post). It look four months for Build Method to complete construction. More details are below.
6. The city inspector comes out during the completion of different milestones. He will either approve this phase or give your contractor corrections to make. After the final approval is given...
7. Get lien releases from the contractor, his subcontractors, and suppliers before making the final payment.
The construction process was no doubt the biggest part of the whole process. I hired Build Method Construction, a company founded by Danny Kab and Orr Barouch. I met with several different contractors and ended up going with Build Method because they were a company and appeared to have different project managers on staff. I figured if one person didn’t do a good job, there would be another one who could replace him.
Build Method was really terrific. Orr Barouch was my project manager and he was at my house pretty much every day making sure the project was moving along quickly. All the workers (Selvin, Reuben, Jose, Leo, Renee, Victor, I know I’m forgetting people) were terrific and very respectful. I was a little nervous about having strangers in and out of my house every day for 4 months straight but I always felt safe and at ease with everyone. They also worked so hard; I was extremely impressed with everyone's work ethic.
Work would start every morning at 7am and there would be a lot of drilling, banging, hammering, throughout the day. Sometimes the workers would come on Saturdays. Orr even showed up the day AFTER HIS WEDDING to crawl through my dirt-filled crawlspace to fix something. I remember looking at his legs sticking out and thinking, “This man needs to be on his honeymoon and not crawling through my crawlspace.”
Danny and Orr plan to grow Build Method into a big company so they are here for the long haul. They really did such a great job for me and I know they will do an amazing job for you. As my future projects get bigger and more ambitious, they will certainly be the first people I call.
I also have some random tips:
1. When you hire a contractor (if you are in LA, call Build Method first obviously), you should not be asking “How much will the job be per sq ft?” That is not the right way to look at things. Different rooms (bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, sunroom, etc) require different things (windows, wiring, plumbing, etc). The cost of lumber has also lost its damn mind and has jumped up to a ridiculous level. The quotes you get will change every few weeks given how much the material cost changes.
2. Communicate well with your contractor. I didn’t expect Orr to remember all the details about my job. He’s got a lot of other jobs going on whereas I just have this one so I would remind him about things all the time. Orr probably thought I overcommunicated with him but that’s just who I am. I write EVERYTHING down and I made sure we completed everything.
3. Be aware of your budget and stick to it the best you can. However, add some padding to the budget because there WILL be unexpected costs that come up.
4. Be aware of the timeline and hope that your contractor sticks to it the best he can. My initial contract with Build Method said the job would be done in three months but that seemed very optimistic to me so I tacked on one month and hoped it would be done in four months, which is what happened.
I love how my house turned out. It is around 1,780 sq ft and has 3 beds / 3 baths. I call it a Frankenstein home. It was initially built in 1939 as an 800 sq ft home. How entire families lived in a home that small is beyond me. The previous owner then added around 750 sq ft in the late 1970s. And now, I just added another 230 sq ft. I’m very happy with the results of my Frankenstein home and wish you the best of luck on your home renovation project.
The contact info of the awesome people who helped me with this project is below. If you live in Los Angeles, please consider hiring them for your work:
Realtor YingYing Zhang - firstname.lastname@example.org
Architect Steve Sun - email@example.com
Structural engineer Jim Wang - firstname.lastname@example.org
Contractor Build Method Construction - https://buildmethodconstruction.com/; (818) 900-9626
I'm pretty late to the game with a lot of movies so the ones listed will not actually be from 2020. Here we go ...
1) Body Double, Brian De Palma, 1984: The movie is about mistaken identities, is set in 1980s Los Angeles, and ends with an interesting twist. Craig Wasson is adorable, I'm surprised he didn't have a bigger career after. Melanie Griffith is lovely, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for her because her mother, Tippi Hedren, has a big cat sanctuary called Shambala and has done a long of amazing work with big cats. I had no idea, Gregg Henry, Logan Huntzberger's dad, was so cute when he was younger!
There is a very cool movie within a movie sequence in the film where Craig Wasson's character wanders onto the set for the filming of the music video for "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I am OBSESSED with this song. It's so catchy! Holly Johnson, lead singer for the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, was in his early 20s during filming and he looks like a BABY. I wonder what it's like to have such monster success when you're so young.
Here is a PG-13 version of the movie music video for "Relax." If you are easily offended, don't watch it and for the love of god, don't watch the actual music video. Let's just say it involves a rotund man dressed as a Roman emperor, some baby tiger wrestling, and some other freaky stuff.
2) Scarface, Brian De Palma, 1983: This movie is amazing. It's about the manifestation of the American Dream. Al Pacino's character decides to achieve it in a certain way that I obviously wouldn't recommend but we understand where his motivation comes from. Michelle Pfeiffer has got to be one of the most beautiful women alive. The world is yours ...
3) Session 9, Brad Anderson, 2001: This movie is consistently on the "best scary movies ever" lists. It is such a creepy, effective movie. No gore, very tight editing, there are no wasted seconds. The whole cast is excellent but Peter Mullins is the real standout. He has such a sad, expressive face. The real Danvers State Hospital has since been converted to an apartment complex which must be a little weird.
4) Bird Box, Susanne Bier, 2018: This movie is AMAZING!!!!! I saw posters for this all over LA when it premiered but I didn't watch it for the longest time because I thought the premise was far too ridiculous. But the movie is extremely good. Much more violent than I expected. They really don't hold back on anything. Sandra Bullock is amazing as always. I liked how the movie showed the progression of her ambivalence toward motherhood to becoming a fierce protector of her children. This was one of those movies where I thought I would only sit through 20 minutes before turning it off but the next thing I knew, two hours had gone by. Those are the best kinds of movies.
5) The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, various directors, 2018: I was listening to a terrific podcast called Even the Rich and they talked about the Versace family. Their story is fascinating and I remembered that Ryan Murphy created a show around the family a few years ago on netflix. This technically isn't a movie but the TV series is very good and I highly recommend it. The first thing you notice is how GOOD-LOOKING everyone is. But the story is solid, and the acting is very good. Some standouts for me:
a) Max Greenfield as Ronnie. This is a small supporting role but he looks NOTHING like he normally does in real life. I've never actually seen him in anything else but I recognized him and was shocked at his physical transformation. In reality, he is really, really handsome. It's astonishing how actors can physically change their appearance for different roles.
b) Cody Fern as David. He is terrific in this role. I really liked the scenes of him with his father. The last scene (I won't spoil here), the very obvious dream sequence of his last meeting ever with his father, made me tear up. Cody is very good and I hope he becomes a very successful actor.
c) Finn Wittrock as Jeff: He is very cute. I just have to say, there's one scene where his character says, "I'm leaving San Diego to move to Minneapolis to find myself" and I wanted to shout at the TV screen, "You're not going to find anything in Minneapolis! There's nothing there for you!" No offense to anyone in Minneapolis but I lived there for a few years and his character was just not going to fit in.
6) Mia and the White Lion, Gilles de Maistre, 2018: Anyone who knows me knows I never shut up about big cats. This movie is about a young girl growing up with a white lion in Africa. They actually used a real lion, and the movie is filmed through the course of three years so we see the girl and the lion grow up together in real time.
There's a big cat education and conservation center called Project Survival Cat Haven up in Dunlap, CA, right outside of Sequoia National Park, that I visit often and they took in a baby white lion named Barafu last year that looks just like the lion in the movie. Barafu is now a year old and I can't wait to watch him grow up to be a big, strong, handsome white lion just like in the movie.
7) Bombshell, Jay Roach, 2019: I'm a huge fan of both Charlize Theron and Megyn Kelly. Once again, movie transformations can be amazing. Charlize looked virtually identical to Megyn Kelly. Margot Robbie is overrated. Yeah, I said it. FIGHT ME. I haven't been impressed with anything she's done. This movie is highly entertaining. Several elements are taken from Megyn's book Settle for More, which is a very solid biography. Megyn is very honest about her life and what she has failed at, succeeded at, and what she's learned over the years. There was none of that "Kumbaya, let's all lean in and hold hands and take over the world and all your dreams will come true" nonsense. Megyn cuts straight to the point, just like she is in real life and I found that utterly refreshing.
8) Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Joe Berlinger, 2019: This is the netflix biopic about serial killer Ted Bundy. I HATED the trailer. It was too violent and set the wrong tone for the movie.
The movie itself is actually amazing. It's not violent at all, except for one very quick shot at the end. Its more a character study into Bundy and his former girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall. Lily Collins and Zac Efron are very good in this film. They have such baby faces that they look like teenagers playing dress up. This movie has one of the most effective endings I've ever seen. The song is a haunting Marco Beltrami remix of Mozart's song "The Magic Flute Queen of the Night Aria."
9) Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria, 2019: This movie was based on the Jamie Pressler article "The Hustlers at Scores". This is an incredibly good movie. Jennifer Lopez is outstanding. Once again, it's about achieving the American dream. I wouldn't recommend it the way the women did it in the film but just like in Scarface, there are certain people who come from nothing and have the grit and determination to go to the very top. I don't see this trait in many people so I like watching movies that explore this idea.
10) Molly's Game, Aaron Sorkin, 2017: This movie is based on the book by Molly Bloom called Molly's Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World. This movie was terrific. Moves very fast, super tight editing, movie was over before I knew it. Jessica Chastain is very good. The casting of Michael Cera is brilliant. His character is based on a real-life actor (I'm not going to name who here but you can easily find out who online) who is always cast as genuine, Pollyanna-type people but is apparently the exact opposite in real life. Once again, this movie is about a person who rises to the top in an industry I wouldn't recommend but you've got to admire their grit.
I just recently bought a house in Los Angeles, CA. I am purposely not naming the city for privacy reasons and because I’ve watched too many home invasion movies. I bought it in this particular city for the following reasons, reasons that I believe every potential homebuyer should consider:
1. Excellent public schools: I myself am a product of the Los Angeles Unified School District system. I grew up going to public schools and received a terrific education. I’ve met a ton of people who went to private school and I don't see much difference between them vs the people who went to public school.
Los Angeles has many cities with highly ranked public schools, schools that are more than good enough for your children. Even if you don’t plan to have children, owning a home in a highly rated public school district directly correlates to a higher sale / rental price later on.
I don’t mean to keep harping on public vs private schools but I have some friends who are very insistent on only sending their children to private schools so that they have a better chance of getting into a great college.
All I’m going to say is this: Colleges don’t care if you went to Phillips Exeter, Groton, Choate or any other fancy school whose names sound like the names of people who came over on the Mayflower. Unless you are famous, a national champion in something, or the child of famously wealthy parents, top colleges are only going to admit you if you have high AP and SAT scores. They will not give a flying duck where you went to high school if you don't have high test scores.
AP and and SAT exams are standard across the nation and it is CRITICAL to do well on those exams (and to take as many AP exams as possible) to be considered for top schools. I hope you take my advice and save yourself the $400K per kid.
Screed over. Time for the hate mail to flow in!
2. Close proximity to other cities: This city is very much in the heart of the city and it’s super easy to get around from here to anywhere else.
3. Close proximity to my workplace and to some of my favorite places in the city
4. Safety: This particular area has one of the lowest crime rates around. Many of my neighbors have already introduced themselves to me and I feel at peace here.
5. Practically guaranteed return on my investment: You cannot go wrong with Los Angeles real estate. Yes, the prices are absurdly high. Everyone else around the country (other than San Francisco and New York City) tells me I’m living in another world. But when you put practically anything on the market in Los Angeles, it’ll get snatched up super fast.
When I was looking, I was told to go visit the house immediately (like the day of or the day after it was posted) and to make an offer over the asking price immediately (and to even expect COUNTEROFFERS to my offer price that was ALREADY ABOVE the asking price). Some people even place an offer without seeing the house!
I have friends who buy in other parts of the country and while the cost is much more reasonable, I have also seen them sit on their home for years before it sells or they sell it for breakeven / less than what they bought it for.
My only regret is that I didn’t buy a house sooner. I grew up a few miles from here and when I look at how much property values have increased, I think “UGH! Why didn’t I buy a house when I was 13!!” This particular city has always been very popular due to the type of companies headquartered here and the creative types that live here. As the years have gone by, it’s no surprise it’s gotten even more popular.
6. (Somewhat) close proximity to my parents: I never thought I’d say this but it’s nice being close to my parents. They are getting older and I feel better knowing that I’m physically close by and can help them whenever they need it.
When I started house hunting, I had a specific budget to stick to and the best piece of advice I got from my real estate agent was the following - Buy a more rundown or older house that will need some renovations. You’ll be able to get that for a better deal than a “recently renovated” house. As we looked around, she pointed out homes that had recently been flipped (they start to look alike after you’ve walked through a few) and which ones that hadn’t. I ended up buying a house that had a great core foundation but does need some remodeling.
Now that I’ve gone through the process, here is my advice for any of you looking to buy a house:
1. Be responsible and stick to your budget. DO NOT THROW AROUND MONEY THAT YOU DON’T HAVE. Do not engage in a bidding war. My first three offers were turned down and I only was successful on my fourth one. This is because I refused to play the bidding game. I had set aside a certain amount of money and planned to stick to it.
Yes, now is a great time to buy because interest rates are low but don’t forget that you still need to pay the bank back ALL THE MONEY THEY LOANED YOU. Some people seem to have this “out of sight, out of mind” mentality with their mortgage payments. “What’s another $200K addition to our offer? We’re still paying the same monthly amount to the bank!” Please don’t have that mindset. Don’t owe more money than you need to.
If you can pay with cash, even better. As Kathy Griffin said, “I bought my house for $10.5 million cash outright, because as Suze Orman taught me, if you can’t afford to buy a house in cash, you can’t afford it."
And besides, there is no such thing as a perfect dream home. Every week, new homes come on the market and you’ll find one that you like pretty frequently.
2. Don't be afraid of renovations. You should think about the future rental or resale value of the house ten years down the line. Just like you should think about your personal finances (how will my investments now compound in ten years) or a potential marriage (is this person going to be a good financial and semi-life partner who will make my life better), you simply must think about how your house is going to increase in value in the future. Don’t just accept a house for what it is. Think - what I can do to make this better? Here’s what you should be on the lookout for for a house:
a. Have a bathroom for each room. The best combo is 3 beds, 3 baths. (It’s okay if the house doesn’t have that currently. With the approved permits, you can always add a bathroom and / or room depending on the layout of the house and how big the backyard is). People LOVE bathrooms. An extra bathroom increases your property value greatly.
b. Don’t live close to freeway because of air pollution
c. Don’t live close to high voltage towers due to the possible health risks. I found one house in this neighborhood that looked terrific but was suspiciously cheap. When I got there and stepped out of the car, I immediately heard loud buzzing coming directly from the high voltage towers above and noped it out of there.
d. Don’t live close to a school (loud noises and rowdy children)
e. Don’t live close to a commercial area (noise and safety issues).
f. Don’t buy a house with a pool. It presents a lot of liability and your homeowner / landlord insurance rate will be super high.
g. Don’t buy a house that has a high owner turnover rate. There’s a reason why previous owners are leaving and you’ll find out yourself if you live there.
h. Try to buy a house with a 6000 sq ft lot minimum. This would then allow you to build an Attached Dwelling Unit in the backyard to rent out.
i. Do not buy a house where you have to deal with a HOA. HOAs are great at making sure this is a safe, clean, and and beautiful community but they can get very picky about weird things. This is just not something I personally wanted to deal with.
j. Do not buy a house with big trees physically close by. The tree roots will get into the water pipes leading to some terrible sewage problems.
k. Check the cabinets of the house to see if you need to replace them! I made the terrible mistake of not looking inside my kitchen cabinets before moving in. I just saw the exteriors, said "They look fine! No need to replace!" and after I moved in, discovered the cabinet interiors were quite dirty. There were lots of stains that I couldn't scrub out. I ended up replacing all the shelves with melamine wood and putting hardboard panel "skins" over the cabinet walls.
l. Shortly after I began looking, it became clear very quickly that homes in the hills in Los Angeles were a terrible fit for me. The streets are absurdly narrow and parking is atrocious, even at your own freaking house. Congratulations, you just spent $1.5 million on a house with one parking space.
m. Get a really good realtor to work with. Mine was really terrific. She was incredibly knowledgeable about every house we visited. She pointed out all the flaws (foundation problems, water damage, insurance risk, etc) and vetoed homes that, in her eyes, would not be a good fit for me, even if they were expensive. It was very obvious to me that she was not out to just get the highest commission possible by pressuring me to buy the most expensive house I could. In fact, she encouraged me to buy a cheaper house and do my own renovations.
Her strategy is: Why buy a house that has recently been remodeled (which many homes in this city were) when you can do your own renovations and build the house to the specifications that YOU want? Don’t get a realtor that just parrots back what you yourself can read on realtor.com. Get someone who knows what she’s doing and can bring a tremendous amount of value to your real estate journey. I was very impressed with her and will work with her again.
I moved around a lot in my 20s and it’s nice to finally set an anchor down. I grew up in Los Angeles and it’s nice to be back home.
"I bought my house for $10.5 million cash outright, because as Suze Orman taught me, if you can’t afford to buy a house in cash, you can’t afford it." -Kathy Griffin
One of my best friends just lost his job as a highly-paid executive due to the coronavirus. He is 60 years old and had just left an incredibly successful career in academia about a year ago. He had joined the company shortly after leaving academia but sales dropped dramatically after the virus hit and he was let go.
We have been discussing his next steps and I have no doubt he’ll come out of this stronger than ever. He’s had some pretty severe setbacks in this career over the last 35 years but he would completely skyrocket into the stratosphere a few months, years after. His career trajectory looks like an out-of-control roller coaster. One of the things that he is thankfully NOT worried about is money. He has been very diligent and smart with his investments over the years and will be absolutely fine.
As we were talking, I thought about Kathy Griffin, the female comedian. She caught a lot of flak in 2017 for her Trump picture but is slowly making her way back. She sat down for a very honest interview with The Cut last year about money which I loved and shared with everyone I knew.
I was very surprised by how much money she made over the years (“Since Suddenly Susan came out in 1996, I’ve consistently made between $3-and-10 million a year”) and how honest she was about her future earning potential post-Trump picture (“I’ll never have another day of paid work in my life”). The last part sounds like a real downer but here’s what she said next - “My net worth is $35 million, and I am telling you that openly and proudly to say to these dinosaurs: ‘I don’t need you.’”
Please ignore the politics of the situation and just applaud her for what she has accomplished, especially given the extreme competitiveness of the entertainment world. Kathy Griffin is a lot more successful and rich than most people will ever be. She has a lot more grit and determination than most people I’ve ever met (you just feel the hustle oozing from her pores), and honestly, she’s much more funny than I realized (I hadn’t really listened to her material before).
My best friend doesn’t have as much money as Kathy Griffin does but in both their cases, their financial savviness cushioned them from any major falls.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Griffin’s interview:
There was an Oprah episode where she talked about how a lot of celebrities and athletes who get to a certain level have a “business manager,” which is a Hollywood way to say a certified public accountant. A lot of these crooks take 5 percent of what you make. Well, over my dead body. My CPA has a monthly flat rate, the same with my lawyer. I’m not giving my CPA 5 percent of the night someone threw a bottle at my head in Auckland, New Zealand — he didn’t catch the f***ing bottle!
Yes, I sign every single check. I even make my CPA come to meetings with my attorneys, just to have another set of eyes. I go, “All right, we’re schlepping to the office and we’re going to go line item by line item.” I’ve done it with Suze Orman personally. I’ve been burned by people, but I have never bounced a check in my life. My credit score is ridiculous. When I say Oprah level, I mean I have zero debt. I bought my house [in Bel Air, CA] for $10.5 million cash outright, because as Suze Orman taught me, if you can’t afford to buy a house in cash, you can’t afford it.
I didn’t want to be an actress with no job security going, “Oh my God, I have this baller house but I’m scared of the mortgage.” No. I bought the one where I went, “Boom. I can afford it.” I can f***ing die in this house.
I’m 58. I don’t make investments that are risky. I make conservative, steadfast investments. My only stocks pay dividends, and diversity is everything: I diversify my money between stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate. In my opinion, don’t invest in f***ing new shit if you don’t know what it is. I have more Berkshire Hathaway than any stock. I feel like Warren Buffett is my personal broker. He famously met with Bill Gates for years because he would not invest in Microsoft. He was like, “I get insurance companies. I get Dairy Queen. I get Geico. I don’t know what Microsoft is,” and I thought, “Okay, if that’s good enough for Warren Buffett …” I should go to his annual meeting in Omaha, but I’m afraid I’d f*** him. That’s my kind of guy.
Anyone who knows me knows that I never shut up about cats and kittens. I don’t have one myself because I moved around too much in my 20s. But now that I’m settled in Los Angeles, I will be getting one soon.
In June 2019, I visited the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and paid extra to watch a cheetah run. One of the cheetahs in residence, Isaka, did the race and it was pretty amazing to watch.
The cheetah is the fastest land mammal and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. I wanted to see this myself and was not disappointed.
After the run, we were able to meet Isaka in person. He was much bigger than I expected (about 150 lbs) and was extremely beautiful. He had a gorgeous coat and just a stunning cat face with black tear-like facial streaks running down the front. I’m pretty sure Pennywise’s face in It was modeled after a cheetah’s face.
I was pretty hooked after this and while we were at the zoo, I googled “big cats” and found the big cat sanctuary Lions, Tigers, and Bears. It happened to be 30 miles away just outside of San Diego in Alpine, CA. I immediately bought tickets and headed out there the next day.
Lions, Tigers, and Bears was pretty amazing. It is an exotic animal sanctuary that specializes in big cats and bears. I paid to do the “Behind the Scenes with the Bears” experience and got to feed the bears and a lion (obviously not with my hands but with a big stick through the fence). The male lion, Bakari, growled at me and I jumped about ten feet in the air. He was very ferocious and loud. I loved it.
Later on, I visited Shambala, another big cat sanctuary in Acton, just outside of Los Angeles. Former actress Tippi Hedren (star of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Birds) founded this in 1983. She previously raised lions, tigers, and other big cats at her home in Sherman Oaks and after the disastrous filming of Roar, decided to open a sanctuary to provide a safe (and more appropriate) home for all the big cats in the movie.
Just FYI, Tippi is now 95 years old and has had a pretty extraordinary life. I would highly recommend her two books Tippi: A Memoir and Cats of Shambala. She talks about being plucked from virtual obscurity after Hitchcock saw her in a commercial, rising to fame from her roles in Birds and Marnie, the sexual harassment she faced from Hitchcock, discovering her love of big cats, the disastrous filming of Roar, and her life after with Shambala.
Later, in October 2019, I was googling “hang out with cheetahs” one day and discovered Project Survival Cat Haven in Fresno, CA. Right there on their website, it said that I could “walk with their cheetahs.” I called them up and confirmed if this was true. “It says on your website that I can WALK WITH A CHEETAH. Are you sure that I can actually walk NEXT to an ACTUAL cheetah?” They said yes and I drove up there that weekend to do the “Walk with a Cheetah” experience.
It was amazing. The keepers brought out Jazz, their male 110 lb male cheetah. Jazz, the keepers, and I hiked up a small hill and I stared at Jazz the entire time with my mouth open in wonderment. I’m sure I creeped the keepers out. They kept telling me to stop moving so close to Jazz. I was hoping they wouldn’t notice but my plan didn’t work. Jazz was SOOO beautiful.
After that, we did the general tour and I got to meet all of the other big cats - snow leopards, tigers, lions, jaguars, the female cheetah, Salsa, and more. I loved it. During the tour, the volunteer announced that they were about to get a snow white baby lion from another accredited zoo in Minnesota. She said to come back in another month or so to see him.
Guess what I did for the next month before going back? I relentlessly stalked the cat haven’s instagram and facebook page for pictures of Barafu and couldn’t believe how cute he was. When I finally met him in person, I practically squealed with delight. He was 4.5 months old, weighed 30 lbs, and looked like a stuffed animal. They said that he would eventually reach a maximum weight of 350 lbs after 1.5 - 2 years and have tan-colored mane. I plan to go back multiple times to watch him grow up.
Why am I mentioning all this?
I’ve been thinking about what kind of impact I want to have in my life and while I still don’t know the answer yet, I’m starting to think it may have to do with big cats. I’m happiest when I get to spend time with them (and of course, when I spend time with my handful of human best friends).
I love cheetahs in particular. They are beautiful to look at, they don’t attack humans (so I can pet one without getting my arm torn off), and they are the fastest land mammal. I like it when an animal is ranked #1 in a category. Today, there are estimated to be ~7000 cheetahs left in the wild. I sincerely hope they don’t become extinct and am starting to think more seriously about what I can do to help. There are no other charities that I care about so I’m glad I discovered big cat sanctuaries. Check back with me in ten years.
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.