Los Angeles Loves Me. (A Traveler’s Guidebook to Other Places)

It’s that scene in E.T. that comes to mind, where the weakened, failing young alien finally realizes that he is returning home. There are bright lights and tears. The sick limp body is jolted by a second chance to live as his mothership lands gently on the ground with the promise of safety and a return to the abnormalities of alien society. I see the neon shuttles of the LAX airport as we land…lit vauguely through a fraternal layer of smog. I have never in my life been so happy to return to Los Angeles. 

A friend from birth, possibly even from conception…has just graduted from college in Colorado, and I ventured forth to meet and greet her in congratulatory celebratory fashion. 

Colorado. What a trip. I have traveled by cow-cart through the West African mountains, on the back of a camel through the Sahara, by raft down the Yukon, afoot into the alleys of Skid Row, and THIS has been the most challenging journey of my life. I felt like a rookie, a wayward wanderer, thrust into unfamiliar terrtiory without the necessary skills to conquer culture shock or adapt to strange customs. There I was, lost in the middle of America.

If it were a sitcom, and not my life it would be…less funny. Things like Colorado should happen in scripts. Not in the space I’m trying to inhabit as reality. I fear the internet is not the place for absolute honesty. Yet emboldened, I would like to introduce you to my understanding of The Rest Of The World. 

Meet our players:

Friend: A beautiful young brunette, and recent graduate, who aspires to be right. And happy. Simply those things I believe. Her major was criminal justice. Her favorite color is still pink, despite what the world says. She hopes to to be a CO Police Officer in the near future. 

Boy: A dapper young lad, athlete and scholar, engaged for all practical reason’s to our Friend. They are hopelessly in love, and everyone is HAPPY for them. 

Boy’s Boys:  Lifelong playmates of the Boy. They’ve studied baseball and finance. Golf on Fridays. 

(Friend’s) Mom: A mother of six + how-ever-many-more she can fit under her wing/foot/scrutinizing eye. 

Family: The American family. Teacher, Businessmen, nice Catholic sons. You get the idea. They belong to the Boy. Wonderfully good people. 

These are the rules to the game, as I have been taught by these winners: 

1. It is completely appropriate for white, educated young men to shout out “Move ova nigga!”, or “Nigga shuthefuckup!” in mock (dare I say ghetto?) accents while pulling their hats down over their eyes IF they have been drinking AND they are watching George Tillman’s brilliant documentary “Notorious” for educational reasons. 

2. It is NOT okay to bring your guitar into a nail salon/ “Zenorama Spa” where people are relaxing to $40 acryllic fumigation. It may upset the balance of the place. 

3. It is important if you have straight hair that you straighten it, more, in preparation for the curling hair process. 

4. It is not okay to quietly turn down a burger at a family barbeque because someone will have to remind you, loudly, that “God gave us animals”.

5. Words like “damaged” children and “art” should be said only with the necessary air quotation marks. This is done by cocking your head innocently to the side, wiggling two fingers on both hands and rolling your words in honeyed sarcasm. 

6. People with dreadlocs do not wear deodorant. And their dogs have rabies. And they should not be allowed near public pools, or children. 

7. Africa IS a country, after all these years of confusion. And the word primitive should never be taken as an insult. It just means diseased. 

I may have learned more. I got back on the plane and came home.

What was different about this flight home? Oh yeah, nobody was staring at me. 

I’ve been called an exhibitionist before. Generally I take this the wrong way, but I am embracing the identity now. It means I am not one-of-them. It’s sad that I’m using such deragtory, segragationist language these days, but for the past six days I’ve felt like everybody was STARING at me. I’m relieved to back in LA’s forgiving chaos. 

I came home to my MacArthur park apartment, climbed out onto my balcony/fire escape ladder, and watched my neighbours shuffle up and down the street as only Mara Salvatrucha will do here. I loved them for it, and rooted for them silently when three LAPD cars showed up on cue and six armed men disappeared into the quiet  building, leaving their cars in the middle of the road to stop traffic for no apparent reason. One Pacifico (and never another Bud Light) later I am ready to take on the big dogs. I venture out to Arclight Cinema on Sunset and Vine to a sneak preview of Jim Jarmusch’s “The Limits of Control” (see next blog). I am escorted by a bearded usher to my seat behind a young black woman and white man with matching shaved heads. Indulging in an intentional dose of obscurity and aestheticism, I feel refreshed and joyous. A 45 year old woman in skinny jeans and converse bumps into me in the restroom. Two men who look like twins but are probably lovers pass me on my right as a flock of emotional young men with vintage sneakers halts in front of me. I dodge them only to smash into the back of a sexy young Japanese couple wearing too many colors.  Girls in flowy skirts kiss each other on the cheek in greeting as toddlers with mowhawks dash between their legs. I step over a man laying on the sidewalk this evening as he smiles up at me. I am now writing to you from a Korean coffee shop/Christain book store/surprise jazz lounge where a balding old man with a fu manchu is singing heartwrenching Astrud Gilberto covers into a lonely microphone. 

I feel beautiful here, among these people. And why? Los Angeles has a reputation of being dirty, shallow, violent. I loved it today as all of these things. I realized joyously that if everyone in Los Angeles is trying to be seen, it means nobody is looking at you! Thank God.

Who knows how long this newlywed romance will last between this city and I, but for now, I am proud to be at home, here.



~ by Vy on May 11, 2009.

One Response to “Los Angeles Loves Me. (A Traveler’s Guidebook to Other Places)”

  1. Not all CO is like that, I swear! Beautiful prose, and I’ve definitely seen that side but it’s not all that terribleness. I’ll show you the other side if you ever come back… and let me know you’re coming.

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