This month marks my 20th year living in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles also is the place where I have lived the longest.
Although I was born in Connecticut, most of my first 17 years were in Virginia, under the care of my parents (granted, that care was rather remote during my three years in boarding school).
From Virginia, I went to New York, where I would experience my four years of college life within the confines of university housing. Thereafter, there were about seven years of apartment-sharing with roommates.
Then, I met a man with a lease, and I fell in love (not with his lease, mind you).
For a while, the man and I shared his lease in a dismally unpopular area of upper Manhattan. After we married, we moved to a better neighborhood in Brooklyn. Nearly three years into our marriage, we loaded our worldly possessions into a 15-foot rental truck, doused the cats with the prescribed dosage of Dr. Goodpet’s Homeopathic Stress Drops, and drove across the country.
I don’t want to talk about the first L.A. apartments my ex and I shared. We ran a bit of a gamut until we figured it was the marriage, not us, that needed to be “moved.” Suffice it to say, where I live now is the place I moved to when I ended that marriage. Where I live now is the place I’ve lived longer than any other place in my life.
So, here I am, in a place that I have got to call home.
What makes it so?
Something that struck me early after moving to L.A. is that this city is so many things. Unlike New York, which is in your face the minute you walk out into it, L.A. is – potentially – whatever you want it to be.
Are you a surfer-dude? Live in Venice. You’ll find your ilk.
Like shopping? An apartment near the Americana in Glendale will probably work well for you.
Need quiet? Tuck yourself away in some corner of the Valley or find a place in a remote area of Brentwood.
I’ll admit that for the first four years of my living here (i.e., before I ended my marriage and landed in Los Feliz), I was giving serious thoughts to moving back east. It just didn’t feel right to me. But now, I’m in the ‘hood I need to be in. It’s urban. It’s diverse. It’s not altogether safe. It’s alive.
I love my Los Angeles.
It’s funny. In New York, with the hustle and bustle of so many people cramped together on so small an island, you don’t have to define yourself beyond simply being a New Yorker. And if you can just get through your day, make it home, and remember to pick up the dry cleaning, you are an activist.
Los Angeles, an equally populated city, is utterly different from that.
I recall a line from Kramer vs. Kramer in which the Meryl Streep character, during the courtroom scene, referred to moving to California “to find myself.” Within the context of that movie (and perhaps because I first heard it from a Manhattan movie theatre seat), the concept of finding oneself in California sounded very touchy-feely. Like the character had probably gone to some commune in the Big Sur area. Perhaps engaged in some activities meant to release energies otherwise trapped in an inhospitable chakra.
But there is some truth to the concept of “finding oneself” in California. And it doesn’t all relate to East Coast prejudices about this wacky state that’s likely to fall off the continent following the next big tremor…
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I knew only one thing about myself: I was a New Yorker.
And, guess what? Los Angeles didn’t give a shit!
And so… I had “to find myself.”
The good news is that I did.
And I’m guessing that if I weren’t okay with the self I found, I wouldn’t still be here.