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Tuesday , December 14, 2010
How to Live, L.A. Edition: Boozing Your Way Through The Sophomore Slump (Or: How To Resist The Toxic Lure of Catastrophization)
In celebration of the sixth anniversary of the day I moved to Los Angeles, and in honor of nogoodforme.com's recent foray into Satanicism, I present you with (6)6(6) life lessons absorbed in my (6)6(6) years living in this Satan-loving city. Today is Lesson #2.
(Above: the oft-non-majestic Los Angeles River is a nice metaphor for my soul in the summer of 2004*)
My second L.A. August wasn't nearly as magically head-exploding as my first L.A. August. That mostly had to do with several life-alteringly awful things happening all within the previous few months, the shittiness of which was compounded by the fact that I was kind of in love with someone who kind of wasn't in love with me at all. It was The Summer of Self-Pity and Blueberry Wine, and I spent a lot of aggressively sunny days lying on the floor of my buddy's apartment in Silver Lake, hungoverly watching cable and often accidentally napping to make up for all the sleep I was missing. (That summer I had this problem where I could never sleep more than five hours a night, and I'm a girl who needs her eight hours, or else I feel so evil.)
So I felt sad all the time, and evil all the time, but there were also so many nights when I felt 1 percent sad, 2 percent evil, and 97 percent on top of the world, over the moon, walking on air, exultant, elated, ecstatic, enraptured. I was in love with L.A. and a stupid boy too, and all these Springsteen-song-perfect moments happened and I would never give even half a second back for all the tea in China. So it was a "wasted summer" but not a "summer wasted," if you catch my drift.
Anyway, one problem with being a 26-year-old of an excessively romantic disposition surviving her first full summer in L.A. is that maybe you're not always great with perspective. Maybe, upon hitting a rough patch on the road of life, you end up sitting with a styrofoam container of beans and rice in a fast food Mexican joint on Sunset Boulevard, your head saying things like, "This city is going to eat your soul alive, psychic molecule by psychic molecule. This city is going to gnaw your soul up, spit it out, and LEAVE YOU FOR DEAD!" And then you cry a little on the inside, finish up your $3 dinner, and go home and listen to the new Courtney Love record nine times, and it sounds so good.
One thing I can say now that I'm older and at least 1.5 times wiser: CATASTROPHIZATION IS FOR THE BIRDS. It's so obvious, so lazy, so unimaginative. Nine times out of ten (at least), no one and nothing has the power to gnaw up your soul and leave you for dead. Also, if you're in a really bad way, it's probably not L.A.'s fault, unless you actually feel all wrong living here, in which case you should probably get the hell outta dodge as swiftly as possible. If you don't love L.A., L.A. will never love you. I know this much is true.
Even today I'm not entirely sure what I could've done to make The Summer of Self-Pity and Blueberry Wine less pitiful/winey. Back then a friend and I toyed with the idea of forming a nonprofit organization called the Bored Lame Assholes Association (BLAA, for short), but never got around to it because it was probably too much work. That could've been a positive development, but even just spending more time at the beach and less time in bad bars might've made a world of difference.
If you truly must drag your life through the mud, though, I'd highly recommend obsessively soundtracking every moment, mostly just so you can revisit those mix CDs or playlists or what-have-you many years later and feel so grateful that your head and heart are doing much better now. These are three songs I listened to all the time back then:
Some Girls, "On My Back"
Loved mostly because the chorus documents my non-workday routine circa summer '04 with an unnerving accuracy. Loved also because Juliana Hatfield is just destined to be loved by me, always and forever.
Modest Mouse, "The View"
Good News For People Who Love Bad News is a really good record for feeling bad. (So nice work on that title, boys, I guess.) My heart used to hurt every time Isaac sang "If life's not beautiful without the pain, I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again" - which is silly, but we are all on our own journeys here. One day when I was crabby as a crab apple, my similarly bluesy buddy tried to cheer me up by saying/quoting, "It's okay, Liz: We'll all float on okay." And I gave her a naively hopeful "Really?" in response, to which she replied: "Well, we'll float, at least. I actually don't know if we're gonna be okay." It was funny, in that funny-sad sort of way.
Bran Van 3000, "Drinking in L.A."
The first time I heard this song was that summer; it came on the radio one morning while I was getting ready for work, and I was sure the universe was playing the most elaborate-ever practical joke on poor little me. "What the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at 26?" I asked the mirror, then resumed brushing my hair with a $200 boar-bristle brush I got off the free shelf at work. This track's way cheesy in parts, but the thing about having all these ambitions and then just getting drunk and doing nothing will never not sting me with that weird nostalgia reserved for moments that were immensely shitty but that you still miss so much anyway. I think maybe that's my favorite nostalgia of all.
*Photo from donnabarstow.com.
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