Thursday, August 20, 2009

Planet Los Angeles

Got back a couple of days ago from a vacation to Southern California, where I was attending to a long overdue visit to my good friend Eliz. She's got a cute little apartment just a few blocks from the beach in Santa Monica.

I will admit that due to my aversion to thronging crowds I had avoided going anywhere near LA for a long time. While I seem well suited to the city rhythms of San Francisco and Quebec, something about the frenetic, jerky movements of Los Angeles never did sit well with me. I lived in a terrifying neighborhood in Tujunga (near Glendale) for a formative year when I was twenty, and I knew it just wasn't for me. Lots of great stories came out of it, but mostly the kind that are scary as hell in the moment but hilarious later.

I might not have left if I had lived in Santa Monica. It is much more chill. If I could hang out and walk along the beach in the mornings and go to the farmers' market and pick around at the Main Street shops and never set foot in LA proper, that would be okay. During my stay I did a ton of walking. And talking. It was like moving therapy. Eliz and I had a ton of catching up to do, and we sorted out a few things for ourselves along the way.

I wouldn't want to have to do the dating scene there, however. That hasn't changed. There is something fundamentally flaky about single people in Los Angeles in particular. I was at a cocktail event on Saturday night and, from the outside, watched people mingle. I am so much more used to being on a deep, sincere level with the people I know well. It was a lot more work to have conversations on the surface of things with strangers. Of course, with a drink or two to loosen my tongue I managed just fine, but I wasn't looking for love or anything else, so my social needs were pretty simple.

We went to see Depeche Mode on Monday night, and they were awesome. The visual effects were stunning, mesmerizing. Of course, we were lucky to have seen them at all since a rash of shows had been canceled the previous week due to singer David Gahan's illness. The set was clearly designed to give him several breaks, but that was fine. When we were on out way out of the Hollywood Bowl at the end of the show, we saw a couple in a heated argument, and the woman gave the man what looked like a bone-jarring left hook to the kisser. It was pretty messed up, but I will admit with no pride that I was gawking until Eliz grabbed my sleeve and pulled me along.

The next day it was time to go home, so I had to face down the horrors of LAX. I was doing my best to be relaxed and patient with the super-long lines. But holy hell. I am pretty sure that you see the worst in people when they travel. Everyone seemed hostile and pressed and there were just so MANY of them. Overwhelming.

I feel like I just got back from a strange planet. Planet Los Angeles. The people there look like the rest of us. Wait. No, they don't. They are certainly thinner and tanner and wear very expensive ripped jeans that under ordinary circumstances would look like they were fished out of a dumpster. Those clothes are casually, meticulously distressed by professionals and cost more than my car. I can't really criticize because I have nothing approximating a personal style. The whole affair made me want to cruise over to the Patagonia outlet and stock up on practical, semi-sporty clothes that only need to be accessorized with a ponytail and running shoes.

I can't complain, though. I had a good time and got to see LA from an adult perspective. In some ways it was just as I remembered it. In others it surprised me and gave me a glimpse of why people put up with so much traffic on the 405. There is fun to be had there, and if it isn't fun, there is always Dr. Kush.