I've been neglecting this writing for a while, I know, but not without good reason. I had a visitor recently and I got the chance to give the LA tour of the century! How many beautiful things we did! And how incredible to feel the brilliance of so many things I love surrounding me day after day.
A really rough sketch is this: Yamashiro Farmer's Market on its last night, the music, Hollywood below, bargaining at the food stand for the last time of the season. L'Oteria and my griddled cheese and being so happy at that counter and open kitchen sharing food. Birds and my bartender who always lights up when he sees me. Cafe 101 with its perfect jukebox. Tapas and Cube and Farfalla and so many delicious meals. The Getty and its tram up the hillside and the grounds over the ocean and being in a place that means so much to me with someone I care so much about, the art and those buildings and always being captivated and silenced and moved near to tears and finding even more meaning this time.
And so many surprises, so many unexpected detours and discoveries. And more beauty, almost unbearable beauty, than I can express. That was one of the unexpected things. That there is an unabridged version that is far too magical and sacred even for me to describe.
It felt like I got to see and share the culmination of all of the years I've put into exploring and loving this city. And there are so many places here that have nurtured me and fed me over the years. It is a city you have to find. That, I have learned. But I've learned, too, that I've found it. At least, I've found mine. Maybe part of the reason the trip was so special was because I got to show someone the secrets this city has spoken to me the more I've loved it, and the city decided to whisper more in gratitude for that love. And I was sharing it with someone who understood.
Amidst the varied magnificence of the week's outings, we took a few visits to Downtown. I always love showing people Downtown LA. That it exists, that you can take the subway there, that there is a subway. And, more than that, it's my old turf, so I'm comfortable navigating it. And I've got some favorite spots I love visiting. Pete's on Main St., Grand Central Market, the Concert Hall, The Edison.
It's always good to go back. Because that was a significant battleground for me on my journey to loving LA. And this time, it struck me even more.
Walking down bustling Broadway, with its string of old theatre marquees and Latino peddlers, I got to thinking about when I lived there with my friend Brooke. Moving Downtown was part of our confused attempt to be happy, the same attempt that involved going to Disneyland, which was a flop. We were just grasping at various ideas, and, of course, none were the solution. You don't find happiness outside of yourself. I guess we didn't know that then.
We were desperate to find something that would solve our lives. And Downtown seemed like the promised land. I don't know why. We had no explanation, I bet, if you'd asked us. But for some reason, Downtown had streets paved with gold and was the answer to all of our quarter-life worries and sorrows and fears and confusion. We'd even sing, "Downtown, things'll be great when we're Downtown!" Though, I think it was probably a bit forced and metaphorically off-key and ended with more of a question mark trying to be an exclamation point. And it turned out that Downtown wasn't the answer.
But I look back fondly on those months. Both of us working from home, writing from our beautiful loft. Sitting in the window looking down on the soup-kitchen truck while the local lady of the night walked up and down the block. Ending up in Skid Row by accident and clinging to each other in panic. Which was not how we'd dreamed it would be at all.
I do know, though, that it was what it needed to be for us. Which is why it's always good to go back to the old neighborhood. Though it's all cleaned up and swanky now, I can offer it a certain thank you for being what it was. And re-trace my own sad steps, walking on ground that knew me before.
And I get to show it that, now, I am deeply happy, even though that's no longer the right word. And it's not in the way we were looking for back then, either, but in the real way. In the way that knows there is exquisite, indescribable meaning in the most unexpected experiences. In the way that knows not to take life too seriously, but knows, too, in the same breath, to take it very seriously.
And to love this. Because this is it.