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Tuesday , August 11, 2009
How to Live, L.A. Edition: It's Alright To Opposite-Of-Heart New York For A While, But Eventually You'll Want To Get Over Yourself
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 #3.
(Los Angeles, then New York)
There's maybe only three or four ways that living in Los Angeles has made my life less of a gas, and #2 is this problem of not loving New York anymore. New York used to be my most favorite city in all the world, and now it's not, but it's not my fault at all. Nay, I fully lay the blame on a certain breed of New Yorker/ex-New Yorker you sometimes find miserably skulking around town, the type that get its kicks by smugly prattling on and on about how L.A. is so soul-killingly vapid, so appearance-obsessed, such a CULTURAL WASTELAND. Oh, and there's lots of traffic. And the air's dirty. And the girls are all made of plastic. Boo-fucking-hoo.
So nothing puts a hitch in my giddy-up like a self-righteous New Yorker, and I never get tired of feeling spiritually superior to them. I have gotten tired of fighting, though: Whereas once upon a time I seriously, self-appallingly gave the "Talk to the hand!" gesture to some dumb loser slagging off my fair city, now I just tend to chirp "Well, it's not for everyone!" in this weird tone 87 octaves higher than my actual voice, and then I go on my merry way as someone who loves my life enough not to try to make other people hate theirs.
It's sad, because I really miss loving New York. Some of my dearest pre-L.A. memories are of moments set in New York City, like the birthday when I took the Greyhound Bus down to Manhattan with one of my favorite people on the planet, and we played pool in some sleazy dive with these really weird dudes named Fish and Bones, then had the most stoned/sublime dinner at a Thai restaurant in Soho. We asked for a pot of honey, for some reason, and conceptualized an entire Sue Grafton-inspired murder-mystery series about being murdered by fruit. It went Attack Me With Apples, then Bash Me With Bananas, then Clobber Me With Coconuts, and we got all the way through the alphabet - though for "X" we had to cheat a little and go with Xerox Me With Xanthan Gum. See, kids: Drugs are good for you. So is New York City.
But I don't love New York right now. I've gotten over that thing of wishing they made t-shirts that read "I Opposite-of-Heart N.Y.," and sometimes I even force myself to listen to New York-positive songs by KISS or Bob Dylan or the Beastie Boys, but I've still yet to revive the NYC-loving part of my heart. When I'm there, the aversion manifests itself in a very physical way; I always feel vaguely energy-sapped, and I'm always happy to leave. It makes me sad, makes me feel like those L.A.-haters have stolen my New York love, and why would I ever let them have that power?
I don't have any answers, and I can only encourage other ladies/lads in a similar pickle to "fight the hate" and "don't let the bastards grind you down" and "keep on keepin' on," etc., etc. And instead of letting the haters harsh your mellow, you could maybe just make fun of them behind their backs by giggling your cute little head off to X-1's "New York Is So Cool": It's this very tongue-in-cheek song-type-thing they used to play a lot on the radio here about five years ago; it's about a dude from L.A. visiting New York and being so awed by all the awesome awesomeness ("My first night I go to a gallery - Larry Clark is showing new photos. You know who I see? CHLOE SEVIGNY. New York is so cool!"). Now it's dated as all get-out but still a hoot:
I should probably note that I get how you could substitute L.A. for New York in practically any part of this jam, which is maybe the whole point in the first place. I've stood in line at stupid goddamn motherfucking Cinespace; I've seen Steve Aoki at stupid goddamn motherfucking Kitchen 24 and gotten psyched enough to go write about it in my blog the next day. Joke's on me, dudes! And I'm totally okay with that.
Monday , August 10, 2009
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.
Sunday , August 9, 2009
How To Live, L.A. Edition: In Life & Love, Always Go In Like A Lion (And A Little Bit Like A Lamb)
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 #1.
(Palm trees at the end of my block)
I moved to L.A. the first Saturday of August 2003, got off the plane sometime in the late afternoon and by twilight found myself standing in a Kentucky Fried Chicken on Glendale Boulevard, shouting at the boy behind the counter: "I need change for a dollar! IT'S AN EMERGENCY!!!!!" What happened was, I thought I'd locked myself (and my cell phone, and all my belongings) out of the house where I'd be staying for the next month, when really the whole time I'd been holding the key in my right hand. I get frazzled sometimes.
But it was all smooth sailing after that. My first week in L.A. was maybe the most sustained period of sloshed-on-life giddiness I've ever known; I walked around all the time with my head happily exploding from the sheer craziness of having turned "living in Los Angeles" into a real thing after wishing for it for so long. That week's a blur, but then it's not - I remember these things happening, at least:
-eating a burrito as big as my head at Oki Dog
-listening lots to Elephant by The White Stripes (aka my number-one Moving-To-L.A. record)
-buying black jeans on a 100-degree day at a dumb store in Hollywood
-getting spoon-fed pupusas by a dashing stranger at a Salvadoran restaurant in Silver Lake ("I know it's a bit much, but let's just go for it," he somehow non-creepily said as he lifted the spoon to my mouth)
-getting food poisoning from organic yogurt on the second day of my new job
-sitting at the booth next to Elliott Smith and Lou Barlow at Elliott Smith's last birthday party
-developing the first big fat huge crush I'd had in years, then listening to Flowers by the Rolling Stones with said crush
-watching Bonnie & Clyde in someone else's bed whilst nursing the 3rd most elephantine hungover I've ever experienced in my life
-making an odd decision at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning that would mess up my brain for months to come, though not always in a bad way
So that was all fun, minus the food poisoning. It's good to remember life in songs & food & friends & booze & boys & bad black jeans.
But my fondest first-week memory, besides all the boy stuff, is sitting on the falling-apart back steps of my first L.A. home one evening after making the rush-hour ride back to Echo Park from The Valley, eating a peanut-butter-and-strawberry-jam-on-wheat sandwich for dinner, listening to the first Shins record blaring from a shitty boombox in the laundry room. We had these two hugely tall palm trees in the backyard; they had the skinniest trunks and the poofiest heads; they were so charmingly gawky and looked lots like momeraths. Those trees were two of my very first L.A. friends; I loved them and they loved me back.
I cherish my PB&J-and-palm-trees moment because it's so calm and quiet, because I felt so completely peaceful, even with the chronically exploding head and all. And as far as I can remember, my KFC freakout was the only bout of moving-to-L.A. anxiety I ever had to endure. I came here after living in New England all my 25 years, and I didn't really know a soul in the whole city (save the very generous girl who let me crash on her KFC-adjacent couch for a month, despite the fact that we hadn't hung out since we graduated grade school together in 1989). Some people thought that sounded really scary, but it never occurred to me that maybe things weren't going to work out. I'd loved L.A. so gigantically in the 100 or so hours I'd spent here before deciding to move my life 3,000 miles from almost everyone that loved me, the notion that everything might not just sweetly fall into place seemed too insane to consider for even half a second. In my last bedroom in Boston, I had a tequila bottle filled wtih Santa Monica sand and stuffed with a few bougainvillea blossoms thieved from the Chateau Marmont; I'd treasured my weird mementos like the most lovelorn psycho, but in the end they brought me beautiful luck, in the form of a golden ticket to El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula. And I will never stop being massively, droolingly grateful that I seized that luck, despite being told by at least one person very dear to me that I was a fool.
So that's my life lesson for today: Be a fool. Fools fall in love. And fools rush in where angels fear to tread, like in that Bow Wow Wow song I heard yesterday afternoon whilst driving through Laurel Canyon after buying a case of beer at the Canyon Store for a pool party in The Valley, eating a Turkish Delite and singing along very badly. It's a really good song to make your theme for life. Listen now: