It’s everybody. All the time.
Working. Dreaming. Driving. Struggling. Thriving. Getting fucked.
Hoping that this match isn’t another person trying to promote their career from Tinder.
[3:33 PM] I am sprinting through LAX, just off my flight from Denver, with two large, carry on bags strewn across my shoulders. Fifty bucks to check a bag? I don’t think so.
As I dodge the inhabitants of LAX, a sweat begins to grow at the nape of my neck. I slide between doe-eyed actors fresh from Illinois and industry execs sauntering with their overpriced jeans and underage girlfriends.
[3:37 PM] I flip through Uber and Lyft to decipher the lowest fare that will get me to West Hollywood. Spiked Americano in one hand, phone in the other, and thirty pounds of what my lowly Denver closet and I considered to be LA-worthy attire.
I always feel a rush of excitement and urgency when I’m here. Why am I running to be greeted by the stink of Westchester and sound of Uber drivers yelling at each other?
It just always feels like the appropriate thing to do.
[3:45 PM] I miss my first Lyft.
I am on the wrong level and there aren’t any stairs to take me where I need to go.
But also, WHY IS PICK-UP AND DROP-OFF ON THE SAME LEVEL?!?!
[3:47 PM] I ask a man donning a nametag if he knows where to go. He clears his throat as if to ready himself to speak, but rather, scans my hurried face, looks to my feet, and spits.
Flash past two more ignored attempts to get directions and one delightful individual who declared that “I’d be cute if I did something about my face”, and I found the stairs myself.
[4:06 PM] Finally, I get into a Lyft Pool that will cost me between forty and eighty dollars. I am alerted that my driver is deaf and mute, but her profile lists that her car’s “favorite music” is Cardi B.
[4:07 PM] We drive through the palm tree lined exit and I begin to fall into a golden, California daydream, set to the sweet sounds of Bodak Yellow.
[4:08 PM] My cozy daydream is suddenly ripped from my mind as a white Prius decides to dive into our lane, nearly taking off the front bumper of our car.
[4:21 PM] We stop is to pick up a tired woman from what looks like the end of her shift at a laundromat. She timidly slides into the front seat and doesn’t say anything.
[4:23 PM] Before I know it, she is out of the car. Did she just buy, what I am assuming to be, an eight dollar Lyft just to cross the street? It must have been a long day.
[4:43 PM] Twenty minutes deeper into the ride, I notice I put in the wrong address.
I tap on my driver’s shoulder. She jarringly recoils from my touch and turns to give me a terrified look. I mouth to her that I put in the wrong address. I open up Notes on my iPhone and write down what’s going on. She picks up my cue and does the same. A text from “Mommy Dearest” pops up, blocking her note to me.
We continue to exchange notes while we try to figure out how to change the address on a Lyft Pool.
[4:48 PM] She decides to pull over in the ghetto somewhere between LAX and West Hollywood, cancel the ride and start a new one with the hopes we can match up. She locks her doors and rolls up with windows as we try to somehow re-match while I sit in her back seat.
[4:51 PM] We speed through a patchwork of neighborhoods, rich and poor so closely sandwiched together. It begins to blur.
[4:56 PM] Lyft bings and we have another pool rider.
[5:03 PM] She has a brittle frame that seems to struggle under the weight of her leather jacket and smug expression. She smells of Hennessey and clove cigarettes, and bites her lip as our driver slyly rolls down the windows to flush out the smell.
[5:12 PM] We drop her off at the museum of modern art. I am embarrassed by my surprise.
[5:13 PM] As I stick my nose out the window to escape the last of her smell, I make eye contact with a billboard for a new show. I recognize his face, but not well. Maybe he did a few SVU episodes?
If I saw this in my home state, the first words that come to mind would be “celebrity”, “power”, or “influence”. But here, it looks different.
Something about his face is so telling. Part of it feels fucking pathetic: vulnerable, uncomfortable in his pose and expression, maybe even in himself. The other part feels completely inspired, to the point where I get butterflies in my stomach at the sight of his burgeoning success. He’s another artist just trying to make it.
Directly below the billboard is a low-income housing unit. I see a family standing in their front yard, oblivious to the sounds of the freeway. The father is holding his baby girl as she softly coos. The wife is in a floral Mumu watching from the balcony, smoking. They look on as their Chihuahua takes a shit in the front yard.
What a truly confusing feeling it elicits to see a billboard of someone living so big juxtaposed against a family living so small. How seemingly unaware they are of each other, even though their existence is so tightly woven together.
[5:14 PM] Then, as I do, I begin to create a narrative that most certainly doesn’t exist about this man. But it’s Los Angeles, so you never know.
Is he a writer? Actor? He could be.
He could be commuting for hours each day, blasting talk radio to drown out the sound of cars protesting each other as they inch on, all trying to get to the same place.
Maybe he sits in traffic on the 405 with his windows up, yelling at no one and everyone.
Maybe he spends all his extra money on gas and button-down shirts and coffee for his superiors.
Maybe he spends money he doesn’t have on gas and button-down shirts and coffee for his superiors.
Maybe he wakes up to the sight of this billboard every morning and feels insignificant, hungry, tired, or hopeful.
Maybe he is just trying to make it like the rest of us.
[5:31 PM] I arrive at the high-rise my brother works in and head to the elevator. My sweater smells of dried sweat and my leggings are pilling at the thighs. The two bags I’ve been lugging all day sit heavy on my shoulders and I let out a sigh.
[5:31:02 PM] A group of executives enter.
They inch toward the walls of the elevator as if to shield their pressed slacks and Italian leather briefcases from the sight of me. I wonder what they do at the agency. I wonder if they dreamed of being writers or actors. I wonder if they still do.
[5:34 PM] I meet my brother’s gaze as his eyes peep over the top of his cubicle. “You just missed Hilary Duff! We are working with her on a new project. Ready for dinner and drinks?”
[5:41:07] Even though Los Angeles can be a nasty and brutish place where people spit at an ask for help or run you over with their socially-conscious Prius, maybe Los Angeles isn’t a place where you go to try and “make it”. Maybe being here means you’re making it. Because if you look a little closer, all the contradiction and loneliness floats atop an undercurrent of understanding that we are all in this together.
Why else do we move here in droves? Working a double at the 24-hour laundromat or soothing our nerves with too many clove cigarettes and Hennessey? Trading in our typewriter for a briefcase so we can pay rent? Aren’t we all artists looking for other artists? Aren’t we all looking for a place where we can create and grow and learn from each other by any means possible?
Aren’t I writing this from another Lyft I can’t afford and will ultimately overdraft my bank account?
I am an artist too and as my fingers stumble, trying to fly over keys as we fly over potholes, I continue to write. Because I have to.
I have to work and dream and drive and struggle and thrive and fuck.
I have to hope this match isn’t another person trying to promote their career from Tinder.
I have to be in it.
I have to be with everybody. All the time.