thirty-seven things i miss about los angeles

IMG_0381_2I’ve been back in New York for thirty-seven days. It’s been really great being home (the only exception, the only black spot is my new job; my bosses talk to me like I’m bowl of ratatouille– slow to move and incapable of comprehending English), but there are things, so many things I miss about Los Angeles.

  1. My little Fiat. It was my last rental car and had my total heart. That little car could’ve kept me in LA,  I adored it so much.
  2. The crunchy french toast at the Standard Hotel.
  3. Ray. It goes without saying. Me miss you.
  4. Afternoons at the Beverly Hills library.
  5. Target in Glendale. Best. Target. Ever.
  6. Lucky moments: waiting in line for the Stanley Kubrick show at LACMA, not really wanting to spend $20 on a ticket. Someone from behind me shouts out “Anybody want a free ticket?!” Yay, me, I do!
  7. Listening to audiobooks in my car.
  8. Driving along 3rd Street.
  9. Lynn. I miss my buddy like whoa. I miss our food adventures and long, long, long talks.
  10. No rain. Tony! Toni! Tone! was right. It never rains in Southern California.
  11. The windy, slopey, scary, make you wonder if you’ll ever see your family alive again right angle roads in Topanga Canyon. But the view. Boy, those views.
  12. Hanging out with Bridget and Emily and little cutie pie Finley. They made me happy, they made me laugh, they made me feel like I had family close by.
  13. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway.
  14. My route to work– west along 3rd Street, left onto La Cienega, right onto Wilshire Blvd.
  15. Donuts at SK Donuts. Thanks, Ray! I really needed to gain those extra ten pounds before leaving.
  16. Walking through Larchmont Village early evening– the kids would play in the streets, the smell of jasmine was everywhere, it made me want a house with a tire swing in the yard.
  17. Happy hour margaritas at Tortilla Republic. Thanks for the heads up, Ray!
  18. Book Soup and Skylight Books were my favorite book stores.
  19. Late night toasted plain bagels with cream cheese and tomato at Fred 62.
  20. Veggie Grill— missing the Caesar salad with buffalo “chicken.” Thanks for the suggestion, Lynn!
  21. My coworkers. The customers were ten tons to deal with, but I loved everyone I worked with. When I get sad at my new crappy job, I just hear “Mister, mister, sir” and “Thank you for your cooperation and support,” and I get happy again.
  22. The Landmark movie theater.
  23. Buying one bottle of Perrier at a time at the 7-11 on 3rd and S Vista.
  24. Going to the Grove right before closing time.
  25. Getting lost.
  26. Listening to KROQ 106.7.
  27. Hunting down the cheapest gas prices.
  28. Randomly catching the smell of the ocean. Once I was on Fairfax just east of 6th and smelled salt water for no reason, because it’s not near the beach, but I got goosebumps and nostalgia.
  29. Discovering new old places. Casey took me to the Dresden (a restaurant that’s been in Los Feliz for damn near sixty years) and we listened to Marty and Elayne (lounge singers who have been playing and singing there since the Civil Rights movement probably) and Casey requested “Cheek to Cheek” for me and I swayed on my bar stool and drank tequila and club soda.
  30. The Marie Callender’s salad bar.
  31. Anything and everything involving Damon’s Steakhouse. Ray, you changed my life. I’m having my wedding reception at Damon’s.
  32. Late night trips to Von’s. Any trips to Von’s, really. I liked that grocery store. The one on Melrose had a little table with books for a dollar. You took a book and put a buck in a huge, empty water jug.
  33. Beer and fish and chips at the Reel Inn.
  34. The weather– mid 70’s, constant sunshine, no humidity.
  35. Recognizing parts of the city from movies I’ve seen. You get that with New York, too, but it’s different and more novel to me in LA.
  36. Wonderful long lunches with Luanne.
  37. The feeling you get that California really is a majestic place, as beautiful and historic as you expect it to be. The past feels actualized somehow in the weather, the architecture, the landscape, you feel rooted in something that feels simultaneously very right now and very back then. Which of course is true for most places, but there’s something about the space, the odd circus people, and the range from ocean to mountain that makes it feel singular. It makes me feel like I can’t wait to go back.
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last night, best night

There are a few things that could have kept me in Los Angeles, and my coworkers are definitely one of them. On my second to last night in La La Land, we met for what was supposed to be a quick post-work drink at the Surly Goat in West Hollywood. Five hours later, we left behind the karaoke and drunk screaming girls in flip flops. I laughed all night! I knew I was going to be hungover and I didn’t care! I sang along to “Shout” and “Jumping Jack Flash”! But I also cursed the gods– one of my reasons for coming back to New York was missing my friends and feeling socially isolated in LA. But then I go and have the best frigging time with Ray and Olya and Kristen and and John and Juston and Diego and Mark and Brian and Ian and Diego’s brothers and that girl who kept bumping into me on the bathroom line, and I’m just like “Drats! Of course this happens as I’m leaving.”

Oh well. Just means I’ll have to go back sooner than I expected.

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ten things i did last week

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I love Mondays. I like how they have their own slow kind of rhythm, how the world feels like it takes the entire Monday to wake up after the weekend. I didn’t always love them– when I was still in school, when I had an office job, Mondays would make me want to torch myself. But now, even if I have to work on a Monday, I never dread it. Monday no longer seems crummy and gross, it just feels like a little cub of a day. Nothing to take too seriously– a day you know you’ll finish the crossword and make a post office stop.

It’s 7:39 am in Los Angeles on this Monday morning. I’m going to try to make this smoothie for breakfast. In an hour, I’m going to swing by Lynn’s to pick her up for our morning walk. I will go to the restaurant later and pour one billion iced teas, I think I need to get my eyebrows threaded this afternoon, and I’m going to a casting workshop this evening (sigh, that frigging thing actually feels like the bad part of Monday– a bunch of actors auditioning for a casting director always feels like a bad first date skit on SNL– lots and lots of nervous laughter), and tonight I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’ll do. And what could be better than that?

Last week I:

  1. Realized that even though I try to branch out, the only bags that make me truly happy are L.L. Bean totes. Any size, any color, any monogram. I think even if I hit the jackpot one day and splurge on a monogrammed Goyard suitcase, I’ll still tug around my tote bag.
  2. Made this cookie dough last night at ten pm. Apparently the secret to cookie happiness is the chill factor– the dough has to sit in the fridge for 36 hours.
  3. Drove down to Costa Mesa on Saturday evening to see Smokefall at South Coast Repertory. The theater was beautiful, the drive was lovely, before the show I walked over to Scott’s Seafood and had a glass of champagne and read Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro and chatted with a woman sitting next to me at the bar. She was in her fifties and had a short, little hair-sprayed helmet of curls and she was wearing a purple pants suit and had French manicured nails and she told me she was dragging her husband to see Billy Elliot and he was sitting next to her and looked a little like Santa Claus and he didn’t say much, didn’t even look her way as she talked and talked and talked, and I wondered if she ever got a little lonely, but when they were leaving, he put his hands on her shoulders and squeezed them in the most loving, we’ve been married for thirty years kind of way, and he said “Ready?” and I thought maybe she didn’t feel terribly lonesome after all.
  4. Woke up early Thursday morning so I could drive over to the touristy part of Hollywood Boulevard before work. I went to a souvenir shop and bought a California ashtray and some Hollywood postcards. I tried to find an “Eboni” key chain, but alas, that name doesn’t seem popular enough to get its own star-shaped trinket.
  5. Finally got back to reading Anna Karenina. I had put it down for about a month. I love it, but with 200 pages to go, I started to get a little weary. But I picked it up this weekend, and I think I will be able to finish soon.
  6. Rewatched Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I love that movie. I hadn’t seen it in ages and forgot how great it is.
  7. Had lunch with Luanne at Ivy on the Shore in Santa Monica. It was heaven. I was bare-legged and had dessert and a mojito with my lunch and Luanne and I talked for hours and hours about books and Los Angeles and New York and trying to make it. She has very, very, very quickly become one of my favorite people.
  8. Traded in my rental car. I have to swap it out every thirty days. I got rid of the Ford Escort (which I didn’t like driving that much) and got a Mazda 2 (which I frigging love, who knew Mazdas were the cutest little things with a bunch of power?)
  9. While trading in said rental car, I took public transportation in LA for the first time since I’ve been here. I had to get from the airport to the Enterprise office in Korea Town and I took a shuttle to a bus and it wasn’t bad at all and the bus driver was really helpful and friendly! I was hungover and slept for a lot of the trip, but look at how comfy the buses are! Thumbs up!
  10. Reminded myself over and over and over again that I won’t wait tables forever. I’ve been doing it for 12 years and even though my two (yes, I have two waitressing jobs) places are fun, there were a few moments this week when I felt buried underneath a mountain of cappuccinos and nicoise salads and I wanted to cry in front of customers and slap their faces and steal their wallets.

my best friend

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My closest friend in Los Angeles is the GPS lady on my iPhone. For those first few days, I couldn’t get anywhere without her. I clung to her, I relied on her voice, I trusted everything she told me. I was like a young child with a parent on the first day of school– I know if GPS lady wore a skirt, I would bury my face in it, cling to her legs, and beg her not to leave my side. If I missed a turn, went down the wrong boulevard, she never got frustrated. She simply rerouted and got me back on course. Sometimes I found myself wishing she could say more. More than “Turn right on La Cienega.” On long drives, I had her voice to keep me company, but wouldn’t it have been nice if we could laugh together at all those crazy LA drivers? I wished she could give me advice (her voice– albeit automated– is still smooth and authoritative). If she could talk back, I definitely would have teased her for how she pronounces “destination.” She says “des-TOE–nation” and it’s just the cutest little thing ever.

But now I’m beginning week three in Los Angeles and I’m learning my way around a little more. My heart doesn’t leap into my chest every time I pull my car onto the road and I’m not as tentative with directions. I’m trying to push myself to navigate on my own, so I don’t use my GPS as much. But I miss my friend. I miss having her voice by my side as I begin to find a place for myself in this city. We felt like partners in crime; hacking through the LA smog and traffic together, determined to find that damn Trader Joe’s if it killed us, and now. Well, now I kind of feel like the Lone Ranger.

It’s funny– for the last few days, when I have used my GPS, it has been a little out of whack. The visuals are okay, but GPS lady’s voice navigation hasn’t been keeping up with the map. It could be that I need to update both my phone and my Google maps app. Or. Maybe my buddy feels a little abandoned. Maybe this new separation is hard for her, too.

I’m on my way to class and even though I know how to get there, I think I’ll use my GPS to guide me. I like her voice and I like what it reminds me of– new places, new friends, and those unlikely beats of connection that keep you going.

welcome to los angeles

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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.

missing new york

41P8GZTBMTL._SL500_AA300__2I have about 21 days until I head to Los Angeles for a few months (I went to buy a monthly Metrocard a few days ago and realized I didn’t need a 30-day card. I definitely got a little emotional at the Metrocard machine and the guy waiting behind me was definitely like “Keep it moving, sister, cry on the subway.” Oh, New York.)

I’m looking forward to the trip– my west coast to-do list grows each day– but there are those little every day things about New York I will miss.

New York, I miss you already…

  • going to work four nights a week– it’s been six years of slinging beer and serving fries and yelling at drunks, but my coworkers are my second family and sometimes we laugh so hard I start crying and I have to clutch onto something to keep my balance.
  • late night trips to the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene.
  • getting to see a play once a week– I know Los Angeles has a theater scene, but I’ll miss the New York stage. Before I go, I’m going to try to see Belleville and The Flick  and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
  • reading on the subway
  • taking the Sunday Times to brunch at Sun in Bloom in Park Slope (gluten-free baked goods! wahoo!)
  • my family– they threw me a going away brunch and didn’t make me feel bad for drinking about fifteen glasses of champagne and slurring my words and tearing up when they told me how happy and excited they are for me. They made me give a practice acceptance speech and they are so supportive and my sisters text me daily with words of encouragement and I’ll miss them all being so far away.
  • my little studio apartment
  • getting an ice cream cone on warm days and walking through the West Village
  • my friends– laughing and game night and talking about movies and laughing and car bombs and shrieks about who went home with someone unsavory and laughing and sleeping on the couch and holding new babies and BBQs on rooftops and watching “The Voice” for ten hours straight and laughing and birthday gifts and going away parties and drunk text messages and laughing and laughing and laughing. If I think too much about how much I’ll miss my friends, I’ll be crying and crying and crying.

There’s more, there’s always more to miss, and I am looking forward to the change. But sometimes I also want things to stay exactly the way they are.