Friday, February 16, 2007

L.A. Story

Some places, you immediately fall in love with.

The moment I arrived in Boston as a freshman in college, I was smitten. I fell head-over-heels for the city’s charm and history, the noble brownstones lining its crooked streets, the omnipresence of tricycle guy, whose incomprehensible bellows could guide you through the darkest of nights. When I left the summer after my senior year, it broke my heart. I cried all the way to the New York state line.

And then, like many an unemployed and directionless soul before me, I washed up on the shores of the Pacific. My relationship to Los Angeles could probably be best described as a creeping affection. Arriving in Southern California was like touching down on the face of an unknown planet—a planet of garishly colored Mediterranean architecture and incessantly blinding sunlight. It was intriguing, but it seemed too unreal of a place to imagine myself actually living here for any extended period of time.

Now, more than three years later as I’m preparing to become an official resident of Los Angeles, I find there are things about this foreign land that have started to feel like home. Things like late night Astroburger runs, Saturday afternoons at the West Hollywood Farmer’s Market and movies at the Arclight (where they have assigned seating and kindly allow you to bring your cocktail into the theater, which makes it totally worth the $14 price of admission). Searching for an actual home, however, has been a bit of an odyssey.

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve looked at apartments that are--in L.A. real estate speak--Culver City adjacent, West Hollywood adjacent and Beverly Hills adjacent ( and a couple that are actually in Beverly Hills—I know, aren’t we posh). Where some of these buildings were actually located, I’d be hard pressed to tell you. But I know exactly which desirable neighborhood they are within spitting distance from.

In L.A., you’re always adjacent to something. Adjacent to celebrity, to the ocean, to a Coffee Bean franchise. Which perhaps makes sense in a city where everybody is trying to be something else. It’s a philosophy based on the utter rejection of the idea that wherever you go, there you are. Because here, it’s not about where you are, but where you’re going.

Today, you may be a paid-by-the-day production assistant eeking out a meager existence in an unglamorous part of West L.A. But one turn of the screw and you’re a high powered producer with major square footage in Brentwood. Mobility here isn’t just upward, it can be stratospheric. So isn’t it more affirming to think of yourself as “Brentwood-adjacent?”

I think this is both the magic and the curse of Los Angeles. It can be painfully image-obsessed and as disingenuous as the non-native palm trees that define its topography. But, as corny as it sounds, it’s still a place that draws people with big dreams.

During the countless Friday night drives I’ve made from my bucolic suburban domicile to my boyfriend’s Santa Monica adjacent apartment, my favorite part of the drive always comes when I’m maneuvering around a twisty hill on the I-10. At one specific point, if the smog’s not too heavy, you get a glimpse of downtown L.A. rising up in the distance. From this particular vantage point, the city’s usually pitiful-looking skyline appears to be floating on a cloud above the earth—sort of like the first image of the Emerald City in "The Wizard of Oz.”

I guess this is kind of how I have affectionately come to think of my new home. A poorly conceived, sprawling, carcinogen-infested Land of Oz. Run by an actor pretending to be a wizard.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

When a Donkey Becomes an Ass

Democrats have been ticking me off lately.

First off, there was that ridiculous controversy a couple of weeks ago over Bush referring to the “Democrat majority” during the State of the Union address. Apparently, some Democrats found this horribly offensive. Why, I don’t know. Maybe Bush did mean it as an intentional dig, but come on. This is a guy who has access to all the nuclear launch codes, but can’t pronounce the word “nuclear.” I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt since it seems like we should have slightly more important matters to worry about.

And anyway, who cares if Bush neglected to put the “ic” in Democratic when we’ve got the fellows mentioned below to do it for him:

Let's start with Joseph Biden's comments about Barack Obama. Just in case you missed it, the Delaware Senator announced he was running for President last week and then proceeded to describe his rival for the Democratic nomination as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Now, sometimes—maybe because we pride ourselves on being the party of inclusion or because of our need to feel everybody’s pain--I think we liberals can be a tad oversensitive. This is not one of those times.

I’ve seen Biden appear on The Daily Show a couple of times, and previously found his frankness and candor rather refreshing. But what the hell? You think Barack Obama is such an impressive candidate because he manages to be both black AND clean—is that what we’re supposed to take from your comments? This is how you choose to introduce yourself to the nation?

I thought no prospective presidential candidate could commit a bigger gaffe than accidentally calling American soldiers stupid, but clearly I was wrong. To quote Billy Madison (and the recent Kazzie awards): “I award you no points, may God have mercy on your soul.”

And, finally, Gavin Newsom. Gavin, Gavin, Gavin. I left my heart in San Francisco back in 2004 when you opened city hall to all those happy same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses. And while your bold act of civil disobedience may have contributed to a heap of reactionary anti-gay laws being passed a few months later, I adored you for being a man of principle. You’re still much better eye-candy than, say, Ted Kennedy, but get it together, man!

Still, I haven’t lost faith. I believe that this will be a banner year for the Democrat-ic Party, and that the 2008 election is ours to lose. But perhaps our venerable leaders need a gentle reminder that with great power comes great…something.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

These Vagabond Shoes...

My favorite times at my house are Taco Tuesdays. The best thing about Taco Tuesdays is that they can actually occur spontaneously on pretty much any night of the week. One of the roommates will come home from work, and instead of a throwing together a hastily prepared meal eaten at the counter, will declare “I feel like tacos tonight.”

Then there is great jubilation over the inspired idea. Plans to go to the gym, do laundry or run errands are abandoned. Sufjan Stevens, or something equally soothing, is played on the stereo. Erin will start cooking the meat (real for us, soy for the metro-sexual men of the house), I’ll chop the vegetables, Nick purees the avocados, and Corey brings out the chips and salsa for pre-dinner snacking. When the feast is prepared, we all sit down at the table like the bizarre pseudo-suburban family that we have become.

The last such night was especially significant, because we all knew there was a good chance it would be one of the last. Change is always a little bittersweet even when it’s welcome or even sought after. This week, I accepted a job offer in Los Angeles and will be moving there in few weeks. By the end of the summer, the three delightful people I’ve shared a home with for the past year-and-a-half will likely be scattered around the globe when they leave to teach overseas.

I’m rejoicing at no longer being an urban snob trapped in the suburbs. No more will I be stranded miles from a Nordstroms and good Indian take-out. After three years of living 60 miles apart and mutual shuttling back and forth on weekends, I’m leaving tract-home Hell for the relative civilization of Los Angeles and domestic bliss with Matt.

It’s incredibly exciting, and long overdue, but it also closes a chapter in my life. With the exception of the nine months I lived in a one-bedroom apartment alone, I’ve always had roommates.

There’ve been the Good (the current roomies, my 1601 girls from senior year of college), the Bad (my freshman year roommate who sold drugs and kept her stash hidden in the cereal bar box) and the Ugly. (My former housemate, Jen, who listened to rap full blast in the morning and actually thought she should only have to pay half the rent one month because she was going to be out of town for two weeks. Also, my other freshman year roommate who went to bed at 10:30 every night and at 12 a.m. would inevitably march into the floor lounge and tell everyone to “go to bed, idiots!”)

Now, that part of life that is spent shuffling from place to place, essentially rootless and able to pack my life into a few boxes on short notice, is over. Matt and I will purchase furniture and hang framed pictures on the wall. I will spend an inordinate amount of time drooling over Pottery Barn catalogues. My books will be displayed on shelves instead of shoved under my bed in shopping bags.

If things go according to plan, I will be somewhat settled and Matt will be the last roommate I ever have. That is unless somewhere down the line, in my golden years, I end up sharing a house in Miami with a ditzy blond from St. Olaf, a slutty aging Southern belle, and a sassy elderly woman who starts every sentence with “Sicily, 1952…” (I guess in this scenario I would be Dorothy.)

The next stage of my life is sure to be a journey fraught with adventure and some peril. Can a slob and a neatnik co-habitate without turning into characters from a Neil Simon play? Who will emerge as the ultimate master of the remote, and how many televised Red Sox games can one woman endure?

I can’t wait to find out.