The Blinding Light of Los Angeles

I’m terrible at regularly posting, so I’m trying something new. 30 new posts for 30 days. Maybe in that time I’ll say something you haven’t heard from me before, but it’s SO HARD. I’ve had the site since 2002, woowoo! I’m sure I’ve regurgitated all of Oprah’s AHA MOMENTS by now as well as every single thing that could ever be said about running a race or competing in a triathlon. But it’s worth a shot. It’s better than me wasting my time on Big Brother fan message boards, which is where I spent most of my time this summer.

Los Angeles. Last night I was driving home from my commute on I-10. Driving west on the 10 in the evenings means you’re headed directly into the sun. Usually I’m in sort of a dead-tired-frustrated-get-me-home zone, but yesterday I looked up at the palm trees & remembered my very first drive west on the 10 into L.A. September of 2000. No real dreams or plans, just an apartment I found ONLINE on Craigslist (Craigslist existed in 2000!??!) in a place called North Hollywood–which seemed like exactly a little bit north of where dreams come true.

It’s so much easier to navigate now with all these GPS systems. I guess I was using a classic map back in the day, but I remember so clearly not being able to see ANY of the signs on the freeway because of the bright glare of the sun. I was giddy happy, though! I finally started to see exits that said SUNSET BLVD, why yes–I think I will exit here! I drove back and forth down Sunset & took a picture of the street sign. I ended up over by Paramount Pictures and snapped a shot of the studio. I could not believe I had made it! Palm trees everywhere.

My first couple of weeks in L.A were ridiculous. I realized North Hollywood–especially the apartment I found online–was way way north of any excitement and not really near Hollywood. But it was so cheap!!! Also, there were at least 2 dozen kids running around the apartment complex, so I just kept driving right on by. Instead, I ended up with a weekly rental at some sleazy motel in the middle of Hollywood. I’m not sure why I thought I had to be IN Hollywood. I would not be caught near a sleazy motel in Hollywood these days–but at the time, I figured it’s what everyone did. After 2 days of driving around, I settled for a place in Glendale (what is Glendale, I wondered) & that was that. Chuck would soon follow, and we would spend our first two years in L.A. living in a town I had never heard of called Glendale.

I had no idea I would spend the next 14+ years in Los Angeles, either hating the city and dreaming of moving somewhere else or convincing my friends/family/boyfriend that it was THE BEST place to be. I have never met a city that has such a love/hate feel about it. No one outside of L.A. seems to be impressed. I remember living in NYC & everyone would say, “I would love to move to San Diego.” Everyone there seems to think San Diego is the paradise, and I of course said the same thing myself dozens of times. It’s quiet there. Smaller town vibe.

We all roll our eyes at the “Hollywood types” here, but I wouldn’t be here without them. I love creative dreamers, storytellers, & people that are passionate about bringing their ideas to life. Yes, there are money-hungry types, out-of-their-mind types, those that are obsessed with only the surface level, etc. And you have not lived in L.A. long enough if you have not been asked to join at least a couple of cults. But for the most part, my friends are creative individuals with dreams of their next big endeavors. Most of us are transplants to the city, a move which requires a healthy dose of optimism & dreams. I love this about the city.

I moved here in my early 20s–that time in your life where you can take a job just because it sounds funny. My job as a page at CBS was comedy gold. I got to call back home with stories about Price is Right fan letters. I sat in the Politically Incorrect chairs before the show & pretended to be a political analyst. I sat for 12 hours on the set of Young and the Restless, watching a phone that I needed to answer if the red light ever lit up. It never did. It was probably a prop light, a prop phone.

I was an extra, because that’s what our Texas transplant friends told us we should do for easy money. My first gig was on Strong Medicine, where they put a fake glass shard in my head & filmed a scene over me–the car accident victim. No one would answer me when I asked, “Are my eyes open or closed??” I just closed them and tried not to laugh. I was an audience member in a judge TV show–they put me on the jury & I spent an hour or two thinking of a funny thing to say when the camera came around & questioned us about how we felt about the case. It was something that had to do with a stolen pair of boots. I said something about how stylish the boots were & I’d be mad if they stole my boots, too. My moment in the spotlight.

Eventually, I finished graduate school moved onto more serious “real jobs” that I was passionate about in the field I’m most passionate about (education, not game shows as you probably assumed). Life drifted away from those Hollywood surreal moments, but occasionally & randomly–something Hollywood happened. I was on a game show with Chuck & we won! Or I would spot the celebrity, or attend a film fest. Something that reminds you that you live in a city where the film/TV industry dominates the landscape.

It’s easy to be an explorer out here, because the city is so sprawling. And also, you are in Southern California–which is as sunny (thanks drought!) & pleasant as you’ve come to expect. Every. Day. of the year. There is a Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica mountains that goes on for miles and miles. The ocean of course–and a dozen beaches that seem to blend together at first, but you will eventually know the details of each by heart. The neighborhoods and cities within the city, they are endless. Too many restaurants to visits, every movie you ever heard of playing somewhere, any concert you want to see–you know, the typical benefits of big city living. The attempts at surfing, snowboarding, paddle-boarding, ocean swimming, road biking, mountain biking, trail running–all of these things seem out of the range of possibility for a West Texas girl.

After so many years here & so many years at the same job, the commute has become automatic. The 10 has been a constant in my life, and I know all of the exits and the miles in between. I rarely notice the palm trees anymore, except on a day like yesterday–where it was impossible to ignore the sunset, the freeway, the palm trees & a reminder of how it felt to be so freshly new to and overwhelmed by this city.

I could probably walk away from L.A. & find a more calming sense of happiness in a less massive, less polluted city. My life is pretty simple as is. I like to stay within the confines of my Culver City neighborhood these days with the shady tree-lined streets & the local deli making me a fresh sandwich. But then I’ll look across the street and see the massive Sony Studios. We’ll watch Jeopardy & marvel at the fact that they shoot the show ACROSS THE STREET. I’ll meet a friend for lunch and talk about our big ideas/dreams/businesses & walk away feeling completely inspired by the creative spirit–the real pulse of L.A.

OK, phew, one down! I’ll try again tomorrow.