The summer I dropped out of college I lived with Dad for six months. I’d saved enough to get my own apartment. Calling on a few childhood friends to get together, brought Diane. When I told her I was looking for an apartment, she suggested we roommate a two bedroom. Diane was at USC and my father had complete trust and admiration for her, he loved the idea. When Diane told her Mother, she recalled the story to me on the phone.
She said, “You know her father’s a gangster, you won’t be safe!”
Diane responded, “I’ll be safer with him around!” Her mother conceded.
We found a place on Clark Avenue right off Melrose. Diane brought the living room furniture, a daisy darling sofa and the apartment was transformed. She was in charge of the utilities and made perfect notations on paper of my half. I loved her for that, because she knew I would ignore them! She was teaching me, and cautioned me a few days ahead of the bill date. In my mind, we were opposites that complemented one another. Although, I can’t recall what I taught Diane.
We stayed a year, I moved into Westwood and she got married. Over the last thirty or is it forty years, we find each other. I feel like I’m twenty-five when we’re together. She has a down to earth practical connection to life, where I use abstraction and risk. Those are the ones who make up, our cradle of our friends.
- The exhilaration and expectations of stepping out of one grid, of eighty thousand people in Santa Fe, NM to one million people in Los Angeles is something I didn’t really think out, it was more like, I’m going home, to Tara.
Santa Fe slow as a rippling stream manifests when I’m at a yellow light, and I think the driver behind me is going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t get through before it turns red. How serious, overly stimulated, exhausted and determined the Angels of Angeles evolved. Either you are so rich you don’t have time to say hello, or you are struggling with loneliness and can’t wait to say hello. When I lived here in the eighties and early nineties, the vibe felt in social arenas; Hollywood, technology, the arts, and real estate were promising ventures of investment. People in the know were opening shops in ungentrified neighborhoods, warehouse space was scraping the horizon downtown, real estate was affordable, and technology wasn’t the flag we saluted, it was more like we’re in real time paradise.
Century City, very close to my front door, is a memory. My father lived on Century Park East in the last few years of his life. He didn’t like it because it was all concrete, newly built, it didn’t have a history. Now when I drive into the satellite of HIGH RISES, mall music, billboards, shops, and cafes, I know what he means. It is changed, rushing executives, employees, shoppers, a pace that makes one slower feel extradited.
Then the parking, you will need a ticket to park, a parking pass, or you will have to circle the block four times before you find a parking space. The line outside the restaurant is too long, or not long enough, the business of dining here is a mouthful of expectation. The business owner of a shop sells me what I did not come in to buy, and the sales pitch is like a Hollywood script, and I’ don’t know the language. The wait for the Doctor is two months, and that’s if he takes your insurance, which I found out in California has very few Medicare physicians. If someone does speak to you, you can’t hear them because there is so much construction noise, pulsating bass music in surround sound, you find yourself shouting.
Flip the coin. The day after I landed a woman walked up to me and said, ” Oh, you just moved in, I’m Barbara, I’m at 1203 welcome to the neighborhood.”
We walked together with her little Boo dog. She asked questions, and I answered because she was that kind of person you want to talk to, she soothes, applauds, and comforts all in tune with your admissions. The next few days as I awaited my furniture, she glided by, and we continued our life stories, some from the past, some of the moment. My first friend materialized, like a new moon in a new city.
IN LA, because of the immeasurable density, people are always close by, not a foot between us. It’s the life here, it’s not the LA I remember, but it is home. So, like family, I am learning to accept and stay individual.
RELOCATION isn’t just about the physical exertion of packing, and unpacking, I’m learning this as I swirl onto the 10 Freeway in a cavernous flow of luxury automobiles headed west from downtown LA. Self-doubt is not an option driving the freeway, you have to be a lioness or a cougar, imagine me more like an indoor cat going outside for the first time. On the 4th of July my transport from Santa Fe, NM to the city of Angels, ended in the late afternoon as I pulled up in front of a new place to call home. Fireworks beginning, palm trees rippling, dogs barking, and sirens escalating, all a safe distance from my front door. Noise in Santa Fe is Church Bells, bad-ass guys on motorcycles and an occasional siren. First step to ‘when in LA,’ block out the noise or turn up your head set-by the way everyone is strapped to a headphone. I noticed this phenomena on the few trips I’d made to LA while deciding if I should move back after twenty-five years.
As I entered the 1940s period bungalow for the first time all was very familiar. Thirty five years ago I lived in the same compound. Mine was across the common garden area, but the floor plan is the same with a built-in vanity, windows on every wall but one, fireplace, and a small kitchen. It’s like a doll house, four-hundred square feet. The landlord delivered a newness to it with freshly painted walls, polished wood floors, and a spotless kitchen and bathroom. I set my luggage down, took a shower and bounced.
I headed for Westwood Village, where I spent years eight through thirteen. I remember the Dog House, Mario’s, Fedway, Capezio, Bullocks and Desmonds where I worked one summer in Women’s Apparel. The best of all was Ships. My gang used to go there for breakfast in our pajamas to celebrate one of our birthdays. The Village is so close to my defining history, why I ended up there and why I left. We lived on Hilgard in what was then called the The Hilgard House, a microcosm of modern living in a new hi-rise with a pool. It was like living with a family; unguarded neighbors that knew my name, a Fred McMurray type Building Manager, a few famous actress’s, and me, one of four or five blossoming teenagers.
I drove past the renovated building now condominiums renting for seventeen times what I expect my mother paid in 1962. The neighborhood hasn’t been gentrified! It is still a quaint collection of Mediterranean and Mission style homes and four-flex’s.
I stopped in front of the second Hamburger Hamlet location, now Skylight. It took about five minutes to decide I’m going to love this first experience in Los Angeles. On the 4th the restaurant was empty, the room exposed and free of human camouflage. The brick walls remained, giving off some whiff of history and the rest of the room was finished in youthful coziness. Coming from Santa Fe, a city of minor extravagances, the two mirrored lit up bars, stacked with more choices of liquor than what I know existed is my focal point.
” Hi, how you doing? Do you know what you’d like to drink?”
” Well looking at the selection, what do you suggest?”
” What do you like?”
” Wine, white wine by the glass.”
They don’t have as many wines as they do Bourbons, so I ordered Sonoma Cutrer and a seafood pasta dish.
” I grew up here, right here in the village.”
“No way, that’s cool. I’ve met a few guests who lived here a long time ago and they tell me stories.”
” What happened to Westwood? Last time I was here, around the late nineties, it was really depreciated and unkept. It looks better now, but not completed you know?”
” Yeah, Westwood went through some really hard times. We opened this a few years ago, and now more restaurants are coming in.”
” So you’re busy during the week?”
” Oh yeah, we get a lot of businessmen, and some students, you should come back and check it out”
” I will, it has an openness about it, room to move.”
I was the only customer until the staff’s friends showed up to have a party of their own. The high-kickers in mini shorts, and skimpy tops, they were cute, like cut-outs from a magazine. I’d been on the road all day, and skipped the meals, so when the seafood pasta arrived, not only was the dish plentiful, it was deliciously fresh and spicy.
After dinner, I strolled along Westwood Boulevard, in a cube of surrealism, the homeless man hunched over his life remains in garbage bags, a Security Guard in front of an abandoned storefront, students striding along as their phones lead them, What happened to Westwood? Why are the store displays bland and conventional, street art, vendors and performers absent? The unmistakable sense of abandonment piqued my curiosity so I drove around the neighborhood, simmering in the memories of my gang. What a utopian place to go through puberty; the College boys spilled out after classes and we waited to see them, on Saturdays we’d meet at the UCLA cafeteria and test our flirting finesse. We spread out on skateboards along Weyburn and Westwood Boulevard flexing our budding egos and breasts. They are the flagship years of my life, maybe that’s why I came home, to flex my bruised ego and budding independence.
When I laid my body down on a blanket, with fireworks as my backdrop, it was like a celebratory musical overture to a new beginning. The painfully hard wood floor slapped the idiocy of not bringing foam or a sleeping bag. I’ll buy a bed tomorrow and my furniture will arrive Friday. The first night faraway from my La Posada de Santa Fe Hotel family, friends, my old Discovery SUV, my house, my cat, and my best friend who initiated the change is not in my head! To be continued.
I feel like a butterfly wing, trying to fly without my twin. Hang on, we have to fly solo. The world feels harsher, the obstacles immense, one wing is better than none.
One winged flight with breath of fright, just a step I have to take to the next destination.
In a week of famous iconic people who’ve committed suicide, my heart breaks and my mind asks, why is everyone shocked? Chronic depression, anxiety, and loss of a life view are not particularly inviting topics of conversation. I know, the last two years of my life these disturbing emotions tried to get a noose around my neck… NO WAY. Enemies cannot win, whether they are in your head your heart or at your doorstep.
The answer is to get involved in someone’s mental decay, agony, and hopelessness is a risk most people are not willing to take. I suggest the simplest of remedies; accessibility by way of phone calls and drop-ins.
Suicides have increased thirty-percent since 1999 and according to Suicide Statistics one hundred and twenty-three each day.
Who do you know that needs attention?
ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS FALL ON… moving without a new address. This is the pinnacle of the If Girl, an identify that suits me. I’ve met dozens of men and women who are transitioning from one local to another, one partner to another, one pet to another, the if is the true arch of our character. If we reach to high we may end up with a knock on the head, if we reach to low we disappoint ourselves. If you are not moving internally, well, I guess you are happy where you are. I’ve never known that. Maybe its the writer in me, without conflict what to write about?
Direction is a choice; move back home, move near your children, move for a job, but in my case I move because my act in Santa Fe has closed. I’m like a space between two paragraphs; a blank slate sounds romantic, no commitments or tangible responsibilities my home is rented and so like a nomad, I’m searching for a new beginning. Some say its an adventure, some say the answer will come in time, as I lay my head down on a hotel pillow, the interim is asking me to be peaceful, as my belongings are reduced to a partial wardrobe, my cat, three books, and my coffee maker.
Its like when I went off to college, a liberating extension of those early days when belonging to things didn’t matter, life mattered. If you are single and without children this is the knife that we must slice into a piece we accept, or no peace at all.