I present to you my up-to-the-minute list of all the weird things about Los Angeles.
- The never-changing weather, the constant sun, the vivid colors found in the flora of the trees, the nice-smelling air, the dependable light breeze at sunset, zero humidity. I depend on bad weather to stay inside and read and write all day. I need it for my art, man. How will I find the time or the strength to burrow under a mountain of blankets and read if the weather does not necessitate (and enable) my staying inside? Do I read outside now? Has one ever read outside? Will it hurt my eyes? What about zoning out on my phone and watching hours of unwrapping videos on YouTube? Are these unwrapping videos real or are they fake? Do these gift unwrapping families get sponsored by the toy companies before wrapping these gifts, so that when their sweet British children declare, “Oy! Happy Christmas, mum!” they are actually reacting to goods that were provided by Big Toy, Mum and Da laughing all the way to the bank? Can I watch these videos on my phone outside, too? Please advise on what “going outside” is like.
- How nice everyone is to you all the time, presumably because they think you might be famous or important. One can’t possibly have every actor/writer/director/producer/blogger/lifestyle expert/celebrity gossip columnist/Olsen sister/health guru/morning show host committed to memory, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. If I walk down the street with my sunglasses on, I can see people look up like, Are you somebody? And they don’t do it because I exude a particularly strong sense of célébrité, they do it because they’re just playing the odds and it’s more likely than not that the average person in public is actually a famous person. I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve taken to publicly shouting, “My uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, won’t be happy about this!” into my phone.
- Anyone who orders anything at a counter takes 7-12 minutes to place said order. Sandwiches, coffee, drinks, you name it: People here have nothing but time to ask questions about their purchase. I went to my local grocery store last week (like the Dude, my Ralphs card is also my only form of identification) and there were two young women in front of me at the deli. Their shopping cart was filled to the brim with items you only buy if you just moved, e.g., condiments, cleaning supplies, toiletries. All the stuff you throw away at your last place and just re-buy at the new one. Having just moved myself, I felt sympathy for them, knowing that moving can be tough and having to re-buy all the stuff you had just a few days ago can be annoying. I even went so far as to think, “Yeah, I bet we have a lot in common. Solidarity!” And then it took them literally 15 minutes to purchase a pound and a half of cold cuts and that’s when they became my sworn enemies. They began by asking the deli worker how much meat they would need to make four sandwiches. The deli worker gave a response. The women hummed and hawed over this response, then switched the question up to how much meat is needed for a week’s worth of sandwiches. They deliberated again over the expert recommendation that came from the deli worker. Questions of this nature went on for some time. IF turkey BUT ham THEN what? Then what??? And how! Why ham! Why turkey! They eventually decided that they wanted 24 slices of turkey, 12 slices in one bag and 12 slices in another. They then asked for a sample of every cheese–“just a little slice, to try!” How are you about to buy a cart’s worth of condiments but not know how sandwiches are made? At some point during the cheese tasting, the deli worker turned to me and asked what I wanted and then said, “Do you want to pick that up later? I’m helping them right now.” I begrudgingly agreed and turned in a huff, whispering to no one that Uncle Francis is going to hear about this.
But I suppose the truly weirdest thing about moving here–or moving anywhere, really–is the element of starting over on things that I just didn’t have to worry about for a long time. This is not a phenomenon unique to me; all people hate updating resumés. This stage of rebooting, however, is the first time I’ve had to do it since graduating college and solidifying my life in Chicago. This is a return to finding doctors, a place to get my hair cut, the safest route from point A to point B. To doubting my ability to make adult decisions, even though I’ve done a perfectly fine job of it for years, even though I have a partner who supports without ever condescending. I can say with confidence that this is an issue of confidence. I need more of it. I’ve spent so many years pretending I know what I’m doing, I’m afraid the ruse will catch up with me. Here’s hoping that I can outsmart LA in the same way I outsmarted Chicago, college before that, and basically any other situation in my life in which I had to pretend I knew what I was doing.
I just told you I’m happiest when I’m inside under blankets; surely you can glean that I am a huge comfort creature. I was hygge before hygge was a thing, baby. And though I talk (and, I think, walk) a big game of making emotional, intellectual, professional, creative changes, I really hate physical changes. Like, the actually having to get up and and do stuff element of changes. Yes, I moved across the country, but that’s different! That’s big. That is macro. I am talking micro. Walk two blocks to try a new restaurant? Too much effort! Want to check out the public library in our new neighborhood? No, absolutely not now, even though we have nothing else to do! Leave this shitty bar and walk over to that awesome bar? No way, we’re already here! It’s hard to pinpoint the exact issue, though “comfortable footwear” is a leading theory. It’s also fair to assume that I’m afraid of finding out my routines aren’t actually all that great, that I’ve been wasting time and money on things that are beneath me, that I didn’t do it right the first time.
So here’s to getting my library card, to getting my bangs cut, to walking south when I always go east. To celebrating the three writing submission and application deadlines I just hit, because we should celebrate what we write even though rejection is possible, the bright side always being that at least my mom will read my plays and stories. To all the weird things.
On an unrelated but sad note, I want to mention the passing of our sweet buddy, Chester. My brother and I were told for years and years that we were absolutely not allowed to ever have pets, and then my mom met Chester and he stole her heart. Chester was temperamental and hilarious, kind and unabashedly nosy. A true cat. I leave you with one of my favorite short stories by Lorrie Moore, If Only Bert Were Here. It’s about the death of a cat, and it’s so funny and touching. Just want to reiterate, this story is about the death of a beloved cat, so don’t be like, Hey, that story was sad, Katie! What gives! I am telling you now, so read it when you’re ready. But read it! It’s great. Death can be multi-faceted like that sometimes.