Today is Day 3 in Lala Land and I might as well be in Togo, it feels so very different. Traveling is something I yearn to do, but it does fill me with a weird mix of anxiety and dread. Even when I’m in places that shouldn’t feel so culturally dissimilar (same language, driving on the same side of the road, same crappy pop music on the radio), I have an apprehension that makes the simplest tasks seem impossible. I was so distracted last night, I drove three miles down Santa Monica Blvd with my lights off (I almost caused a frigging accident, and just like a New Yorker, I cursed and hollered at the other car. And when I got home and realized that I had been driving with my lights off, I was filled with so much shame, I could do nothing but sit in my car and gulp). I couldn’t figure out how to operate the parking ticket machine at the Target on La Brea and I damn near cried punching at buttons and trying to find the right change.
My nerves are a little shot. My synapses won’t cooperate.
But I guess this is what it means to go beyond your home for a while. You step out of your known world, and all of sudden every moment feel important, there is a sharpness to your awareness that might be difficult to find in your normal life. As harried as I feel, I have paid attention to every gesture, every sign, every tree, every smile I have come across. And for each hiccup, there’s been something so lovely to counter it. Sushi and beer with Bridget on my first night, a trip to the Grove and a drive through Hancock Park with Lynn, a late-night visit to Canter’s for matzoh ball soup and a potato knish, and later I’m heading to Skylight Books.
Today I’m spending the afternoon in the Beverly Hills library and there is a woman a few feet away who is laughing, roaring actually, at something on the rented computer she is using. The security guard has told her to hush up, other readers have sssshed her, and you can see that she is trying to be quiet. But every few minutes, she watches something that makes her yelp and snort into her hands as she tries to suppress a laugh. She appears to be living on top of all of her energy right now, perfectly keyed in to whatever she’s watching and how happy it makes her. She’ll probably get tossed out of here in the next ten minutes, but maybe it will have been worth it. That’s what I hope to get out of this trip– moments when the joy and excitement trump the fear of what might, maybe, could possibly happen. Even if some city officials in a patrol car pull up alongside my rented sky-blue Hyundai, yank me from my seat, call me a interloper and discharge me back to Brooklyn, I’ll have had my rainy evening alone at Canter’s, eating my knish, sipping my root beer, doing the crossword puzzle, unsure which direction I should drive in to head home.