It was a city that I’d moved to out of necessity. Not for love of the city. But as a milestone of aging. The next box to check in the long line of unchecked boxes in some imaginary list of how to be a successful adult list.
And I hated it.
Hated the way I could barely see the sky. Hated the incessant noise. Hated that I couldn’t sleep the night through without sirens and the bleeping crosswalk waking me up every five minutes. Hated the way I had to always plan endlessly and exhaustively in advance for a small trip out for groceries or to meet up with a friend. . . because traffic.
And the parking.
Don’t even get me started on the parking! It was horrendous. Even worse than the traffic. Forget a ticket and you would be out $50 or stop in a place for 15 minutes and whoop there goes a $20 how does that even math!?
Two things they say you have to be certain of in life: death and taxes. Three things in cities: death, taxes and traffic. It was shaping up to be the worst four years of my life.
Then suddenly and without warning I realized I was in love. It had been growing there. All along somewhere deep down inside me. . .
A lasting love sometimes starts out backwards. All you see is the bad. Not that the bad ever totally goes away when the love comes but suddenly you are hit by the realization that there is something there of value outlasting and outshining the muck and grime.
It’s not that love-is-blind thing at all.
It’s just a sort of shift in your heart, a sort of acknowledgement that deep down, of “hey you really are not that bad after all” and that “as a whole I like who you are, who you are becoming and who you could one day become.”
And suddenly you love.
Love the way the air smells on wet cement when it rains once or twice a year. And then everything floods and everyone either gets in accidents or calls out of work because the sky is falling. And then all you talk about for the next week was that crazy weather.
That was how my love grew.
My love for this odd, messed up mismatched city of dreams, full of filth and future.
Multifaceted and complex like the architecture that made it up, modern, art-deco, concrete blocks, business, housing, abandoned and all creating the backbone, the skeleton which held the soul of the city.
The people like the blood in the veins and then the culture a blanket of meat and sinews on the skeleton. Her veins often clog up, but step inside one of her subways, her busses and you see what fills her heart. Young and old, rich and poor an endless kaleidoscope of change and diversity.
Walking in the city center you see her opulence and her poverty, cross one street and you know instantly. Hear the sounds of popping. Fireworks? Flat-tire? Or gunfire? Then shrug and move along, what will it be for lunch today?
Sushi or Fusion?
Or that Taco Truck—the one that gave you the worst stomach cramps last week—but it was so worth it.
And then after the rush of the work day to linger, over cups of coffee in a reunion of another like-hearted lover of the soul of this city.
Every week a new place, because we never ran out or grew tired searching its depths and facets for new tastes, faces and places.
Speakeasies, French dip, spicy pickles, smack your lips mac and cheese. Oh and the garlic that you’ll never erase—and all your coworkers will know where you went to lunch. And they will want to know why they weren’t invited. So you’ll try to hide it anyway, go get a cup of cover to mask the lingering smell and taste.
No one will ever notice you will tell yourself breathing coffee-garlic clouds.
For all its horrors and harshness of back alleyways, homelessness, the smell of putrescence, for all the “it’s not personal it’s just business,” it was still beautiful underneath.
Somewhere mixed up in all that there is both good, bad, ugly and beautiful is the soul of the city.
You could just judge her with a passing eye you’d say she’s dirty, ragged, selfish, fast paced and impersonal. And you wouldn’t be totally wrong. But you also wouldn’t be totally right. I thought the same of her too once.
Some people would say she is all glitz and glam and no substance. But she is more. She is raw.
She is real.
She is terrifying, electrifying, heartbreaking and always full of surprises.
She was then and is now one of the favorite places I have ever lived. I often find myself longing for her.
I dream I see her streets, smell her food and breath in the exhaust and smog.
When I visit her, I feel a thrill, as I drive down the freeway–a chord that connects me to her like an IV.
And then I can feel it in my chest.
A lightness. An electrifying buzz. An excitement and an eagerness.
Soon I shall see her again.
And then. When I get to that one part of the freeway, where it arches high into a bridge and I see the first glimpse of her in the distance. I thrill. And no matter how long it has been a childlike grin spreads across my face.
And I say in my heart, in my soul.
Hello Los Angeles.