Ode to a Good Life

It’s been chilly in Los Angeles these last few days. People here like that. It’s a change of pace, a chance to wear sweaters and Uggs instead of t-shirts and Nikes. My son is visiting from New Jersey. He does not like this weather. I mean he chose to ride an airplane during COVID in order to escape the snow and cold and gusty winds of the East, to bask in sunshine under palm trees. But after a few sunny SoCal days upon arrival, it has turned blustery here — even as New York City recently hit the 70 degree mark. But what’s a person to do? He also came to see me and his sister and we are enjoying each other immensely.

Los Angeles is not one place. There’s no L.A. experience that I can decipher so far. For the past ten years I’ve been visiting here, staying with or nearby my daughter as she took me around to gardens, bars, galleries, and mountains. So many neighborhoods, so many experiences. Chinatown, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock, Highland Park… And that’s just the city. L.A. county, where she and I both live now, has Pasadena with its historic downtown, Glendale with multiple hiking trails, and Burbank — which always makes me think of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In when the announcer would say, “coming to you from beautiful downtown Burbank.” I go there now to play tennis at a beautiful public park.

Southern California honors its winter season, too. People go indoors — relatively. I’ve been having a smattering of folks over, all outside, hosting COVID-safe “parties” as we circle the firepit left here graciously by the last tenants. We’ve grilled salmon for fish tacos, and served burgers with tomatillo chutney. People bring firewood. We hang out in the back until we can’t take it anymore, layers of jackets and sweaters warming us along with the alcohol. It feels really special to be able to socialize this way right now. At the same time, there is always a kind of self-consciousness about what the “neighbors must think” of us COVID-deniers living it up like that.

Since my son’s arrival, he’s gone thrifting in Pasadena, gallery-hopping in Chinatown, outdoor dining in Glendale, and hiking in Alta Dena. We took a hike the other day that started out as a hot and sunny ascent. As we began our trek back down the trail, we watched a sheet of rain move quickly over the Verdugo Mountains and float across the valley, growing ever closer to our location. Hail began to softly pelt our sweatshirts as we retraced our steps back down the Beaudry Loop Trail. And then, once again, the sun appeared. Verdant grasses seemed to spring up instantaneously, responding to that rare taste of moisture.

I really like it here, having only been a resident for six months. My daughter says I don’t even know what it’s like yet, what with so many cultural venues and dining establishments closed. The person coloring my hair at Paul Mitchell the School Pasadena last week said the lore is that it takes East coast folks six years to love L.A. They continually swear that they are heading back home as soon as possible. And then, after that sixth year, they are here to stay. I’m here to stay. I believe that this place — this vicinity — is my destiny. It turns out I never told my kids the story of coming to Palo Alto as a child. My parents rented the house of an academic mother and her very cute teenage son for the summer so that my father could guest-lecture at Stanford. I fell in love with the place. And the son. And their houseboat. And the inground pool at the house. I decided then that I wanted to live in California. Destiny, like I said.

Tonight the kids and I will have Mexican food. We’ve been busy with Armenian take-out, brew-pub appetizers, and a German biergarten replete with beer made by Monks in Munich. So it’ll be tacos or tamales or maybe one of my favorites, chile rellenos, tonight. And some cervezas, of course, or maybe a nice shot of mezcal. One always indulges when visitors come. Lots of consuming, of food and material goods. It’s really fun to consume here. But it’s also been a fun place not to do that, too, to simply gaze off at the mountain view from my backyard, or take a walk along the L.A. River. (Which we actually saw flow the other day, thanks to that rain)!

I look forward to hosting others in my home soon. As things open up and people get vaccinated, the city and county will spread before me, offering that much more to explore. You know, a lot of folks wondered about the wisdom of moving across the country during a pandemic. Turns out it’s kind of genius. In a time where so many are thirsting for something new, something outside their four walls and established safety protocols, I am in a place where everything is new — from the neighborhood Von’s Supermarket to the Fremont Tennis Center, five minutes away. New spots, new people, and most of all new views — literally as well as figuratively.

This is an ode to Los Angeles, to the privilege of being able to relocate to sunny California, and most of all to the joy that is being the mother of my two beautiful children. The best of all worlds, my children are both forever new to me and the most familiar humans I know. How lucky can I get? Peace, love, and health. We are getting there.

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