life, travel, writing
Comments 7

Notes from my travels: Los Angeles (2006)

I’ve been wanting to write but then it’s also been the last thing on my mind all summer. I’ve searched for perfectly constructed sentences but I’ve contented myself with finding them in other people’s work. And I did, only they weren’t always written. Sometimes it was a sunset. On certain evenings the sky in California turns pink, not just around the horizon — all of it; cotton candy pink. I’ve been meaning to write about Los Angeles. So I might as well do it now, while my nails are drying. I’ve been alternating between blood red and aubergine for months, several times a week I’ll switch back and forth. Today is purple but when little children in restaurants and shops confront me about it, they insist it is black and their voice commend me for such a bold choice.

Some mornings I wake up alone. He’ll be gone already but never without touching my lips with his and, “I love you.” We hardly ever part without those three precious words. I didn’t think I wanted that. I thought they’d lose their meaning eventually. They don’t. I wake up and I have to decide what kind of day today is going to be. When Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland he could have no way of knowing that one day it’d be a real place, and every day in Los Angeles you can pick which part of it you’d like a visit, you can even time travel a bit. I have two favorite spots, two favorite epochs.

One is to walk the streets where the struggling actresses used to walk, when Hollywood was still new. When fame was magical in the sense that it was the biggest act of all. The studios made you, gave you a story, gave you an image and you were only that one thing. And there was dignity in that, it wasn’t demeaning, like now. Fame was one common goal, one dream. This city holds on to it, echoes of it; the desperation, dreams made and dreams crushed. So many hearts have been broken here, scars left deeper than any one person can cut. But it’s still sunshine, the streets are immaculately clean. There’s a star for every person who managed to break through but if you step away from Hollywood Boulevard and look down, you’ll also find names carved into the concrete everywhere in the city. Names that tell you nothing except someone was here and this someone knew that in this town, you’re no one unless millions of people step on you each year. Then there was the glitz, the cocktail parties for those who made it. All those icons gathered in one garden, and the real secret was that every person there was equally uncomfortable but you had to be there because not getting invited was the kiss of death. It’s so easy to be completely alone in Los Angeles, nobody walks anywhere but I don’t drive so I walk a lot, and I’m almost always alone. The perfect neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, so perfect that no one can possibly live here and be real, and during twilight when I walk past these gardens and the smell of exotic flowers is so strong I can taste it, and I swear that these parties from seventy, eighty years ago still linger in the air.

Other days I want to be bohemian. I want to be Jim Morrison. I go to Venice and I sit on the beach, and I want to be someone special so badly that I hurt. I want to live recklessly, I want to do drugs until I finally get to that other side and write poems so powerful that I will live forever, even if my life is cut dramatically short. I want to belong right here, in a small bungalow by the ocean and I never want to think about tomorrow again. I want to be that strange person that people don’t like but can’t help to be absolutely drawn to because in not being afraid of appearance, people will fear, and admire, your freedom. I walk for miles down the coast, and I don’t talk to anyone. Every song that plays on my iPod takes on a significant new meaning and I think thoughts that at the moment seem like they would change the world, if I were to write them down. They never seem as important when and if I do, and never without the song. I believe that music is the only real magic in the world.

We make a point to read the same book when we’re apart, so we can do the impossible and be in the same frame of mind, even with oceans between us. Learn something new, at the same time. I’ll earmark certain pages that stuck with me, and usually he’ll be the one to mention that exact passage to me first. Late nights when he crawls into bed with me, and I’ve missed him all day but I wouldn’t ever complain, he’ll kiss my shoulder and wrap himself around me. One arm across my belly, one across my chest and legs all entangled, and the world is small, endless and ours.

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