Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The city of cinema stars

I'm on an early morning commuter flight to LA. As the plane circles and then dips into the rippling band of smog that covers the city, I'm twitching with excitement.  This is exactly what I need- to escape Seattle and my own life for a little bit, clear the air, get a fresh start. Such generalities often frequent the minds of those traveling to LA, I'd imagine, but that doesn't do anything to pale my own convictions of transformation. I've begun to feel about Seattle the way most people feel about their hometown- terrified to leave, but cranky at the comforting, familiar scenes. I'm afraid I might live my whole life there, moving from small apartment to small apartment, walking the dog, getting older, pleasant and occupied but never adding anything new to the mix. Ordering off the same menu, as it were.

The city of angels is everything that the PNW is not- hot, sun bleached, ugly, cars gunning it down the highways that ribbon through every neighborhood. I drive to Santa Monica, to Muscle Beach with its swinging rings and balance beams, with no idea where I'm going besides I've read about Santa Monica in every Us Weekly I've ever read.

"Star gazing." I tell my co-worker. "I want to sit at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and watch for Kate Hudson."
In the next two days, we train 100 people. My mouth is full of canker sores from talking so much and so deliberately. Cindy picks me up in the evening, a seattle friend, a brilliant writer who recently took the plunge and moved down here. We're cruising down the 101, windows open, hair flying, music blaring. For a city I've never been to in any real capacity before, I recognize a lot of places- La Cienga, Marina Del Ray, the Tar Pits of La Brea. She drives me to Hollywood. I scream when I see the letters on the mountain- smaller than I thought, and dim, I thought they'd be lit up, but still. Hollywood.

We go to her friend's house, a voice agent she went to college with. "I think you two should meet," she says, crisp, all business, pressing the elevator button. Out of everyone I know, Cindy is the person who pushes me the hardest to keep writing. She knows the industry. She thinks I can make it. She thinks I should at least give it a shot.

Her friend opens the door to his apartment, dressed in all black, leaning against the doorframe holding a martini, looking the very part of the LA agent.

He makes us drinks. Cindy mentions my blog. I say, "But I thought you were a voice agent? Like... Singing?"

He laughs. "That has got to be the most Seattle thing I've ever heard." Everyone laughs. I'm not sure why. Then he leans forward. "So you want to be a writer? Connect with others, be creative, launch ideas?" I nod enthusiastically.

"And you're not living in LA? Why aren't you living in LA?"

I shrug. "Maybe I should. Plus, I like surfing." I say, motioning towards a surfboard propped against the wall.

"And yet you're not living in LA....." He shakes his head, swirls his drink. "I don't understand people like you."
Cindy and I go out to dinner. We walk down the boulevard, leaping over the handprints of cinema stars, a premier for Monsters University to our right, the Chinese Theater to our left. Everything is blinking and glimmering, a swirl of tacky and glamorous, rich and famous and tourist and trash. The people are tall and crowding.

"I still can't believe people actually live here," I shout to Cindy. She replies, "Millions."
My hotel is downtown, fancy, white pillows as long as a body. I wrap my legs around them and sleep completely sideways in the bed. We can take our drinks up to the rooftop Jacuzzi. Breakfast is fancy, the bowl of fruit as big as my apartment, coffee poured from a shiny silver pot. I sit up straight, mind what I say, napkin spread out on the lap. I carefully fold and save all my receipts. I do a very good job being a business woman.

We go to Venice Beach in the afternoon after work, where I play like a kid in the warm Pacific. I'm walloped by the waves, thrown face down into the sand. I venture out farther and farther, white sand and warm water a brand new phenomenon to me. I stare transfixed by the flat aqua horizon as the waves crash around my shoulders. We eat on the beach, a restaurant where the food is served on little skate boards and the waitresses are models and go barefoot. I love LA.

I love LA for a whirlwind visit, and that's all folks.
I'm back in Seattle for 48 hours. I move all of my things from one apartment into another apartment four miles away, a little studio on the lake where a massive construction project right outside the window will wake me up at 7am on the dot every morning. It's 85 degrees and I wonder why in the world I didn't ask anyone for help with the moving. Seth shows up. He plays the banjo and I sing Gillian Welsch songs on the back porch. Then, just like that, he moves to West Virginia. He gives me his bed. I toss my old mattress into the street and watch him drive away. The next thing I know, I'm on an all day flight to Orlando.


Unknown said...

I am not sure if I have commented yet or not but I love your blog and your writing - please never stop! I've been reading religously since you appeared on kelle hampton's blog.

Amanda Gail said...

yay gillian welch! love your blog & missed you while you were gone :-)

Erin said...

What Amanda said. :-)

Erin said...

What Amanda said. :-) "So long now I've been out in the rain and snow...but winter's come and gone, yeah, a little bird told me so."

Kali Kavouklis said...

Whoa, you're going to be in Florida? Man I wish I lived in Orlando (not really), but it'd be great to meet you.If you're ever near Gainesville, let me know!
I'm happy you're back writing :)

Susan said...

so very glad you're back,

Anonymous said...

What unknown above said... I started reading after you were on KH's blog... and I'm hooked! Keep it up!

Sian said...

What everyone said!!!!!! x

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE BACK!!! I'm so glad, I checked your blog about five times a week while you were gone. So happy!

Susan S said...

""And yet you're not living in LA....." He shakes his head, swirls his drink. "I don't understand people like you."

That has got to be the most LA thing I ever heard. Wow.

Susan S said...

"'And yet you're not living in LA....." He shakes his head, swirls his drink. "I don't understand people like you.'"

That has got to be the most LA thing I've ever heard. Wow.

Mira's mom said...

I love your blog too! I am a complete nerd about checking it for updates.

Rachel @ Existation said...

I moved to LA from Minnesota two years ago, and hooooly crap are your descriptions completely on track! I love LA for all of those things, though, and more...for some reason the sun-bleached-ness and the hotness and the crazy energy and millions of people are totally my thing, at least for right now. I definitely crave nature a lot, and rain sometimes too. But the beaches! And the sunsets! And the hills covered in gorgeous houses! And the mountains! And the hiking! And all of the creativity and activities and people DOING things! I can't get enough of it.

Also, I had to do a double take: did you say that the ocean is WARM in LA?! High five to you for thinking that, sista; your skin must be much stronger than mine. I'll definitely remember to bring my wetsuit if I want to go to the ocean whenever I visit Seattle. =]

steph nelsen said...

gillian welch, love.