playing camp in california: snapshots from an empty home, but a full heart

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I’m writing to you from the floor. My first week in California has been exhilarating and extraordinary, even if I’m taking conference calls from the carpet and using aluminum foil as a dinner plate. As of right now my furniture is still in a warehouse in New York, and I’m trying this new thing where I don’t flip out when things don’t go according to plan because it takes more energy to be a screaming asshole than it is to resolve situations with grace and calm. I spent the morning talking to the very kind and helpful head of sales at Shlepper’s and I’m hopeful that my furniture will arrive within the next week. But given how beautiful my apartment is, I’m thinking my situation is more like glamping with an added benefit of Some Assembly Required. I’m thankful for Taskrabbit since assembling furniture is a skill that eludes me. Part of me is strangely happy to be living so minimally and save my books, I kind of dread the 49 boxes that will soon find their way home.

“I was never a fan of people who don’t leave home…It just seems part of your duty in life.” –Joan Didion

Someone recently asked me what it’s like living in California, to which I responded, I don’t know, really. It’s only been a week. All I have are vague, strong impressions–kind of like skywriting–that I’m sure will fade and morph into something tangible, real. Perhaps I’ll have a better answer in six month’s time. But right now I know that the light here is clean, that I’ve been starved for common courtesy and decency–characteristics that are the stock and trade of most Californians, or at least the ones I’ve encountered so far. I know I’ll have to get a car at some point, but it’s been nice walking the four miles to Brentwood. I finally know what it’s like to have a good avocado and a ripe white peach. What it’s like to eat healthy–all. the. time. I know what it’s like to sit next to a group of people and have them fold you into their conversation so soon your two tables become one. I know what it’s like to wake to quiet; I live by the beach and it feels good to be close to water. I wrote someone this week, I’m never coming back.

Santa Monica

This week I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been and the most frightened I’ve ever been. By definition, everything is new to me, and all the things I’ve taken for granted–close friends, a strong professional network, and my family, all close by–I realize I have to, in some way, rebuild. I’m painfully shy but I’ve thrown myself into Facebook groups, scheduled “friend dates” with friends of friends (vetted strangers, really), and reconnected with people from a former life–people I used to know. There’s a lit scene here and I’m nervous about navigating it (although I’m admittedly curious). It’s hard making friends when you’re over a certain age since people are settled, but I hope to find my way here. Build my tribe.

I wake to a pile of email from the East Coast, which alters the shape of my days. But mostly I wake, shell-shocked. I live in California. At one point I’ll have to get a license and drive a car (not sure how I’ll afford one, but I’ll cross that bridge…) I wonder if I’ll be lonely. I wonder if I’ll find project work. I wonder what I’ll write on this space. I wonder when my furniture will arrive so I’ll no longer have to take my meals and calls from the floor.

Everything: I’m working on it.

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21 thoughts on “playing camp in california: snapshots from an empty home, but a full heart

  1. Slowly but you’ll adjust and you’ll make it home. So glad you’re at peace. Calm. Eating healthy. Walking. And the beach and waves icing on the cake. Enjoy! Breathe it all in. Best to you!

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  2. You will continue to love it out here. Though you bit farther south than myself, either way it’s a gorgeous state with a lot of exploring to do once you get that car. And if you make it up here to the Bay Area, I have lots of recommendations!

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  3. Your apartment looks amazing even though it’s still coming together. I also did a big move (South Africa to New Jersey!) so I know what you are going through. Take each day as it comes. You are a lovely writer x

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  4. There is nothing as sweet as starting over with everything. I consider it the biggest game changer for the adult people. I wish you good luck with your new life in California, especially considering all the fresh and organic ingredients you can get over there. Don’t be sad about the current state of your apartment – it looks like an artist’s place, with all the good and the bad it includes.

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  5. Just thought I’d share this as a former sailor in San Diego. If you don’t mind purchasing a used car in great condition, I would recommend visiting the marinas (Marina Del Ray is the only one I know in LA. Around November the cruising migration starts south and boaters anxious about getting going are all selling their cars so they can go cruising. I got a great deal on a jazzy car which I sold when I went cruising. So if you can get to San Diego, there are a million marinas with good used cars sitting in parking lots after September. Look for the boater’s rag, “The Log” which is distributed at marinas on Fridays. They post cars there as well. Best of luck in your new life. I’m happy for you.

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  6. sounds great. I’ve done the moving to new places so many times that I have a hard time finding the kind of big eyed response to everything. I envy you a little. good luck. and enjoy xoxo

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  7. It sounds like a wonderful adventure! And naturally grown strawberries to go with. Your apartment looks great. I’d live there. Enjoy all the bliss of the minimalist lifestyle while you can, and welcome the joy of all the newness you’ve plopped yourself in to. Life is grand!

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  8. So exciting! California is where my heart is set on living and working..and i’m from England! I’m looking forward to hearing how you find it. Best of luck 🙂

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  9. I’m actually in the process of moving from Ohio to South Carolina! Would you recommend using a shipping company like you did instead of renting a uhaul of some sort?? Looking for any moving advice!

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  10. Felicia,
    Congrats on your move!! Even though I currently live in Boston, I lived in both the Los Angeles area and in an adorable little beach town in Southern Orange County (about an hour or slightly more depending on traffic, your exact location, etc.) called San Clemente. If you get a chance and still don’t have a car, you can take a coastal train there if you’d like to check it out sometime. I highly recommend it. There are beautiful surrounding towns near San Clemente as well. There are buses you can take to each town, but I distinctly remember enjoying the adventure of finding my way through the foreign, unfamiliar beauty of my new environment once I had a car. But you do have some public transportation options if you’d prefer :). I was just able to soak everything new in more navigating this brand new area & landscape alone in my car. It was beautiful and completely different from any environment that I’d ever be in. I can’t wait to return soon if things work out!! 🙂 I lived in San Clemente for years as well as in the Santa Monica/L.A. area, but that was about 8-9 yrs. ago, so I’m not sure of what changes have been made. I just thought I’d provide some suggestions if you wanted to venture out a bit more south. It’s worth it :). Again, I don’t know what things have changed, but I really do think you would enjoy San Clemente and surrounding towns (at least to visit and explore. If nothing else, it is a beautiful area and new experience. It was for me at least. The contrast between Boston and this new home of mine in Southern California at the time was unbelievable, brand new, and exhilarating because I actually allowed myself to take this new kind of beautiful all in and breathe). Some of the surrounding towns that I explored near San Clemente when I was living there in an adorable, small, inexpensive, Spanish-style apartment not far from the ocean, but far enough to where I got very lucky & was able to afford the gem that I called “home” for 6 years, were San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point and Laguna Beach. I also ventured even more south into San Diego and, eventually, Mexico after a few years of feeling comfortable in my new California home. Actually, I may be returning for work at some point this year. If you’d like any other suggestions or recommendations for other places (including restaurants, cafes, small, independent bookstores, marketplaces, places to explore, a kind, welcoming, yet tough & honest literary/writing community, etc.), please do not hesitate to ask. Congrats, again, and welcome to your new home!!!! If you have any questions or would like some reliable suggestions & recommendations, just shoot me an email anytime at: jessica_tappin@yahoo.com
    Best wishes to you!!!! I’m happy to be of any help to you that I can.
    I am also a HUGE fan of your writi. And although this may seem terrifying to you, I thought that you may like to know that your memoir is on the collge syllabus of one of my creative writing courses. I can’t wait to read your upcoming novel as well!!!! Congratulations in every aspect of your new life, Felicia!!!! Best wishes always, Jess

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