I joked the other day that life is so good I’m forgetting to photograph it.
I drafted this post early today, and I’m returning to it after having spent the day with an incredible writer and new friend. We were supposed to meet at Joan’s on 3rd, but we didn’t realize that two existed so we ended up at different locations. After a series of hilarious email exchanges, we finally met up and I realized I’d found a kindred spirit. We both grew up in New York (me in Brooklyn, she in the Bronx) and migrated west. We’re writers who are passionate advocates for marginalized/WOC voices. Most of my close friends growing up were Puerto Rican and being with her, and talking about the New York we knew as teenagers (Unique–did you get a spray-painted jacket? YES!, Antique Boutique, Co-op City, 3rd Avenue in the Bronx), felt like home. I rarely feel an instant connection with someone, and I think of this as a gift–what happens when you open all the doors bolted shut and let people in.
I know I’ve said this, ad nauseum, but it’s REALLY hard for me to meet new people. I’m shy and the idea of reaching out and making plans with strangers gives me crippling anxiety. I tend to talk a lot to fill the empty spaces, and half the time I wonder if I come across as a lunatic. When people are shocked over the fact that I’m shy, I’m an introvert, I want to shake my head and say, no, no, you really do not understand. However, I’ve been forcing myself to do it, and this week my friend Alexis and I ventured to downtown L.A. for two events targeting women and freelancers, hosted by Maker City Los Angeles and Spark Los Angeles. I’ve also joined a host of private Facebook groups targeting women writers, freelancers and entrepreneurs, and have been setting up friend dates like it’s the end of days. It’s interesting how these perfunctory get-to-know yous are a bit like dating–everyone’s been wonderful but you sort of know when there’s a spark, when you lose track of time and get excited about making plans again. Selfishly, meeting new people also allows me to check out these chow spots. I’m a regular at Huckleberry, and the chorizo eggs at Cora’s Coffee Shop are next level.
If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you might have noticed that I’ve got a taste for the macabre, and I’ve been immersing myself in the darker aspects of L.A.’s history. From snapping up books on L.A.’s profane origins (and the torture and murder of Indians) to discovering the secrets of haunted houses perched on hills to booking Blood + Dumplings and Helter Skelter tours–I feel overwhelmed, in a good way. I’m setting my third book in a touched home in Los Feliz (I keep calling it The Shining in L.A.), and I’ve started the arduous research process. It’s funny–I never thought to learn about the place in which I grew up, I suppose I took it for granted, but all I want to do now is understand the city where the word “tourist” found its origins. While it’s true that the history of Los Angeles is really the story about water (I’m reading accounts of irrigation scandals and floods, forest fires, and droughts from the late 1800s to the 1940s, and the scenes playing out could’ve taken place today), it’s also the story about dreamers and people in search for an idyll, for something other.
Although I love living in 75 & Sunny (my nickname for L.A.), I find myself looking at the calendar and waiting for the rain, the crisp evenings I’ve known in New York. It’s so weird to say this but I miss rain. I miss the dark clouds and the sky opening up, and me at home, curled up on the couch with the cat, watching it pour. Now we look out and it’s…75 & Sunny. Everyone tells me that it’ll get cooler, and I’m oddly giddy about going to Lit Crawl in Seattle this month, simply to feel a bit of chill.
At lunch today I tell Lilliam that I’m anxious; there’s so much to see. I have to constantly remind myself that I know New York because I’ve lived there for the whole of my life, and it’ll take me years to feel even a fragment of comfort here, the feeling that I know this place and is vernacular and vocabulary. I have to allow myself time.
Speaking of which, something else has been gnawing at me. The constant refrain of “I’m so busy.” I hear and read this every day. I get emails from friends talking about how they’re slammed, drowning, killed. I’m greeted daily with these violent images and people who brag about thousands of emails in their inbox with a pride that is the antithesis of humility. I’ve been through busy and go through times that are hectic still, but if we are the privileged, we choose busy and how we react to it (always with the chaos vs. the calm). We choose how to frame our days, the people with whom to spend time. Being here has made me acutely aware of how fast I speak, how treat a sentence as if it’s a marathon I’m desperate to finish, and how I need to slow the fuck down. I’m not curing cancer. My writing isn’t changing the world and saving lives.
It’s going to be okay. The world won’t end if I slow down.
*I’m thinking of making this a semi-regular series where I share cool spots, books, and other experiences specific to Los Angeles. If you think there are places I should be visiting, let me know. I’m excited to navigate my new home!