People don’t write sonnets about the energy of Los Angeles in the same way they write about New York. LA is the satirized joke no one takes seriously and NY is the melancholy lover that only wants you on their terms. I think mostly that’s because LA is a happy place. It’s lighter than NY, in both weather and mood. And, people don’t write poems about their happiness.
Do you think places leave an imprint on you? Maybe stretched across our skin is a map we can’t see which details where we’ve been and guides where we’re going. Maybe every place we’ve been leaves a little breadcrumb within us, so that, if we so desire, we can find our way back. I like the sentiment, but it might all be bullshit. Idealism sneaks its way into my words so quickly I hardly have time to backspace it out. I don’t know if I’m as hopeful as I seem online. Sometimes I worry my exasperated hopefulness is me trying to convince myself I still have some.
But that might be bullshit, as well.
Saturday nights have a way of bringing out the truth under the truth.
I feel like LA is my home and I don’t know why. I’ve been in Seattle since October after moving here preempted by nothing except the itch to leave California. All that sunshine, man, you miss it when you don’t have it, but it’s relentless when you have it every day. Sometimes you want a cave and LA will just never give you a reprieve from that brightness. It’s blinding. It’s like, can someone just be fucking sad for a bit there? It was too much, so we picked the place least likely to be aggressively and offensively sunny: the Pacific Northwest.
But, now, after five months of relentless gray skies, god, I miss that sunshine. But, maybe, I don’t know, I just miss who I was then. You can’t go back to who you were, even if you recreate all the circumstances. It’s never the same, because you’re never the same. That’s kind of sad, but also sort of beautiful. Things can be opposing things at exactly the same time. Contradictions are only contradicting until you realize you’re, like, happy and sad at exactly the same time.
When I left LA back in October, I was ready to go. That traffic, that smog, that tiring sunshine, that heat, it had culminated into something I was more than happy to leave behind. Yet, sometimes I guess you do have to leave somewhere in order to realize it’s the home you’d been looking for all along. I feel like this defines my life—that I’ll push something away till its about to go over the edge, and then make that split decision to heave it back up or send it flying into the vast abyss. I’ll probably do this until I end up losing something I’ll never get back. That’ll teach me. But it’ll have to happen. I won’t stop until I’ve created my worst case scenario. I’m not sure why I’m like this, but sometimes you can’t always change your natural inclinations; you just have to grow around them, accommodate them somehow.
There is a sense of hope in LA, whether it’s false hope or not, the people there have it. I miss that. I miss being around people who aren’t done yet, who have more to give, more life to live. There isn’t a lot of settling down in LA, at least not in the parts where I found myself most attracted. I know LA cannot be categorized as one thing, but I miss the categories I belonged to, the ones that felt like coming home.
I understand why New York and Los Angeles are compared to each other so often. Both are mass creative hubs that anchor the United States. But, the similarities end there. I never lived in New York and I always dreamed of doing so, mostly because it just seemed much more somber and serious than its creative counterpart. Where LA is consistent weather and hope, New York is dramatic weather and reality. Both are difficult places to live, but perhaps New York seems harder on the surface.
But, LA can eat at you in a way that New York doesn’t. LA, with its bright faces and eager friendliness, it can give you hope that you shouldn’t have. You have the sense that the possibilities are endless, that you can be discovered in a Starbucks or walking down Melrose or that your life-changing moment is coming, even if you’ve spent the entire day with the blinds drawn clicking next on Netflix. LA’s bright, bushy-tailed hope that’s baked into every moment is simultaneously its seduction and its downfall.
Where hope lives, so disappointment lives as well. And, that makes for a potent combination.
New York is expected to be hard. Hope is always tempered by the abusive change of seasons, the gouging rent prices, and the coldness of both the people and the winter months. Expectations are high, but real, a sense of preparedness slapped on the faces of all those that dare try their luck in the Big Apple.
Yet, LA does nothing to warn of its ruthless hope, that too much of one thing—even if its optimism—can be a dangerous game. And, what LA does is seduce you with the promise of opportunity, the promise of future luck, and that addictive belief that your life can change on a dime. That kind of optimism can drain a person and it does. Because, bubbling under the surface of every shiny person in LA is most likely a person who is desperately covering up some sense of panic. That anxiety seems present in New York, where suffering and despair and the ugly loss of dreams litter the streets as much as anything else. In New York, ugly lives in parallel with beauty.
But, LA’s never been good with ugly. And that is perhaps its lie as well as its draw, that hit of hope that everyone goes to LA seeking, receiving, and ultimately resenting. It can turn ugly—a life there—but LA will never tell you. I don’t know why I miss it. I think you end up loving the place you can tolerate on its worst days. Maybe that’s the way all of life works—find what you can tolerate even on your worst days. Find what and who and where you love in spite of all the shortcomings, all the ways in which you have been disappointed. Or maybe this is all bullshit. That’s another option, too.