Los Angeiversary: A Love Letter

Four years ago today, I left my hotel in Overton, Nevada and drove south on I-15 toward LA. By the time I hit the California state line, I was seriously close to running out of gas. On a wing and a prayer I made it to the gas station in Cima. I know this route on I-15 now like the back of my hand, but I didn’t know it well back then and didn’t know if there’d be a gas station any time soon. When I went to reach for my wallet to get gas, I realized it wasn’t there. I looked everywhere. My car was packed to the brim with my most portable worldly possessions. I dug through everything. No wallet. I called the hotel in Overton. They said they didn’t find anything. My wallet disappeared.

I called my boyfriend at the time and he reminded me that I had an ATM card in my passport wallet. I was able to use that to withdraw some cash that I used to buy gas. After my withdrawal, I had a remaining balance of $40, no credit cards, no ID. I drove to LA in a panic. The day before, I’d been driving through the mountains of Colorado and passed through a tunnel {several tunnels, really}. I grew up believing that if you held your breath in tunnels, you could make a wish. All I’d wished for was that my move to LA would go smoothly. Obviously, tunnels are no kind of god.

The only thing I’d really wanted for the previous three years was to move to Los Angeles. My boyfriend had moved there early in our relationship and I spent many weeks of the year visiting him and falling in love with the city that I hated when I’d first visited it at age 14. I’d posted a photo of LA on my blog a few months previous to my move that declared I would someday move to Los Angeles, no matter what. At that time, I was still waiting to hear back from grad schools, had been rejected by UCLA, and was awaiting news from USC, which eventually came as last minute as humanly possible, offering me, finally, an escape plan.

When I arrived in LA, I was distraught. I got to my apartment and began to unload a few things, still calling the hotel in Overton every couple hours about my wallet. I realized that I needed two things: food & a shower curtain. I was gross from days without a shower and lots of sweat from moving boxes and panicking. I couldn’t shower without a curtain because the water would soak my bathroom. I had only $40 to my name. I drove without a license to Bed Bath & Beyond and had a fucking meltdown in front of the shower curtains because I was so hungry and tired and worried and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to buy something simple at Bed Bath & Beyond but there are like 29598398 options for everything. I needed something cheap enough that would allow me to use my remaining cash to buy food but something nice enough that I wouldn’t have wasted my money.

What I’m saying is, I should have known from day one that LA wouldn’t be easy. This city hasn’t been entirely kind to me. I’ve been in multiple hit & run accidents, one of which left my car almost totaled. The DMV is a nightmare. Sometimes it takes me an hour to find a parking spot anywhere near my apartment at night. Yes, there is always traffic. No, public transit isn’t ideal. Once I had spent all Thanksgiving break preparing a presentation for a seminar I was in, and I took the train to school after break to give the presentation, the train broke down, we were all stuck for hours, and I missed giving the presentation. Another time, a man at my train stop was stabbed in the jugular for singing too loudly. He died.

Los Angeles gets fucking hot. Some days in December, I remember it being 96 degrees as I rode my bike through exhaust fumes to work. I have gotten like 30 parking tickets in four years, one of which I got yesterday for $73. Everything is expensive: gas, food, utilities, rent, clothes, coffee, alcohol, traffic tickets.

I’d dreamed of this city for years before I got to live here. It’s all I wanted. I wanted it for the wrong reasons, but that didn’t change my love for it. It wasn’t at all what I expected. It wasn’t a breeze to move here and it isn’t a breeze to live here. Sometimes I think the stress of this major urban sprawl and all the expenses I incur here is going to kill me. It is so hard just to go get groceries. The parking lot is packed. People hit your car. Traffic. Lugging bags for blocks back to my apartment. I am incredibly privileged in some ways and I know things could be much harder. Still, nothing in LA is easy.

But here’s the thing. This city has my heart. Driving through Hollywood, it is impossible not to feel the magic of this place. The magic of the cultural machine this place is {albeit an incredibly¬†flawed machine}. No one on this side of town agrees with me, but I swear the air always feels a little like it’s coming straight from the sea, smells salted, feels wet. There are palm trees. As a kid who only ever saw palm trees on vacation, this is a huge deal for me. It means life in LA feels always like a vacation. The ocean is 30 minutes away. There are mountains in the distance. Flowers everywhere. Every morning when I walk my dog, I see the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory dotting the hillsides. The sun shines every day. I can ride my bike year round. I grow herbs in my front yard. I have an orange tree in my front yard. In the winter months, it feeds me the juiciest, most delicious oranges I’ve ever tasted. I live across the street from an awesome bar where I get to see my neighbor’s comedy show every week. I write and read outside year round.

1743727_863005797772_8331385934995631562_n 1897709_857002777872_9026715601735469673_n 10322747_990532148942_3770622212046225696_n 542472_701632770612_911169763_n 480861_705269497582_1947309659_n 550612_695743921912_670342246_n 11924755_948153920252_863860842917040722_n 11921687_949296365782_1991730937042799159_n 12313683_973265007432_7948500317197146329_n 12065832_964006032492_4914748895017407111_n

And yes sometimes the people feel vapid. But they’re also the nicest people I’ve ever had to live around. Even if some of them are putting on a front, most of them seem genuinely happy. You may hate Los Angeles from afar, but that’s the thing. Almost no one who lives here gives a fuck what you think. Because we’re happy here. We have the sun & the sea. We have palm trees and a desert in the distance. We have fresh produce & the most diverse population I’ve ever seen. Almost half our population is hispanic. Some days I only hear or speak Spanish, and it makes me feel strangely at home, especially when I miss Buenos Aires.

11150671_917636861682_9081991431858363240_n 734510_695610843602_2000244429_n 15805_896753212682_3999906628748923709_n 10991423_892584377062_3615781212037916371_n 554013_676746817262_485714367_n 11947563_948332442492_8211580985716173166_n 1381715_755972014332_412444820_n

Most of my close friends know that I grew up as a New Yorker, always visiting my family and dreaming of that place. New York is still the city of my dreams, but LA is the city of my heart. It’s felt like home since before I ever moved here. I have this uncanny, false sense of nostalgia when I drive through LA streets, as if I remember them from childhood. Sometimes I sit on rooftops overlooking the city and the sea and I can’t imagine ever living somewhere else.

997070_837315661012_4969792230662790909_n 11885252_948156260562_3627451030155194549_n 12006360_953486783152_3570031656874182573_n 419232_672662018232_460236778_n 1796627_795901849622_1224504124_n

LA is driving on the freeway with the windows down and the music up. LA is brunch on patios with flowers and trees and color everywhere. LA is champagne on rooftops. LA is tacos in the Vons parking lot at 1am. LA is running into my 826 kids¬†at Echo Park lake on the weekends, watching them eat tamarindo and play tag. LA is farmers markets and carnicerias. LA is standing in the waves, drinking a sea salted caramel iced latte from Dogtown. LA is walking to my best friend’s house at all times of day and night. LA is the goth club in Hollywood. LA is Watts Towers. LA is bike rides through south central. LA is museums and fuck you yes LA has history. A lot of history. Some of the most important history in the country.

430697_682237074742_879565652_n 12565597_980917007762_7866919060968308136_n

I thought about going on the job market this year. It’s not necessarily the right time for me to do so, but I thought about it anyway. And then I realized I’m not done with LA. I don’t know if I ever will be. I don’t have to live here the rest of my life, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down that chance.

That’s what should happen when you’re in love. A willingness to face fear and discomfort for the sake of that which makes you happy. As long as I have a safe place to sleep and food to eat, I am willing to endure everything that makes this city hard because in return, I get everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

Here’s every photo I’ve probably ever taken of the skyline:

12509423_980176017712_4532595074050129826_n 537807_745672853932_222001325_n 10311372_873069849332_4240194870061637661_n 305046_695726831162_171425376_n 994485_909028772362_7182875476234373082_n 430104_677266885042_1144795930_n 735012_695743966822_62917923_n 545395_676746672552_140531349_n 11079519_902269897202_462217114042373362_n 396746_661080347992_1985130662_n 10420011_887110526702_265417415531548813_n 21694_705268938702_72667115_n 545489_681524293162_1643127029_n 1378034_754924932692_302193906_n 10250146_802605370712_2105975918089755170_n 10381994_818716688502_5527107305139895609_n 10437553_825003599482_4624507136896657628_n 970199_725667015792_1425735471_n

Happy anniversary, Los Angeles. I love you, bae.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *