Whenever I miss you, I pray and I bargain with your gods; John Muir and Bethany Cosentino and Malibu Barbie and the ghost of Bradley Nowell. I swear to them that if they can find a way to bring me back to you, I’ll never ever complain about the Santa Ana winds in October ever again for the rest of my life. I’ll never smack my dashboard and swear loudly in traffic on the 118. I’ll never say I’ve eaten too much In N Out to fit into a bikini to wear on Free Zuma.
I’ll never miss a Laker game again. I’ll root for Kobe even though I know he’s going to miss his free throw. I’ll go hiking every sunset with my dogs, all the way to the beach, even if I’m tired. I’ll always eat mangoes when they’re in season at the Farmer’s Market. I’ll never say the soot from the wildfires is ruining my throat. I’ll inhale that stale cigarette and smog smoke outside of LAX as deeply as my lungs will allow. I’ll stand in line for hours outside of the Roxy to see a shitty band. I’ll listen to the Chili Peppers and Best Coast and Sublime and the Beach Boys and I’ll renounce my love for Sinatra.
I’ll go to the Ronald Reagan library twice a year like I did when I was in grade school. I’ll use those surfboards strapped to the rafters in my garage and I won’t wuss out when my wet suit fills with the freezing Pacific at 5am in March. I’ll dust off my roller blades and skate the boardwalk in San Diego with my old Sublime CD from 1996 playing on my Discman. I’ll go Turtle Racing every Thursday at Brennan’s Pub in Venice and always bet on the underdog. I’ll get a hair wrap on the beach with my best friend. I won’t argue with my mom or act like a brat when she wants to get fish at Brophy Brothers for the fifteenth time in three weeks. I won’t be a snob when someone shows up at a party with an indica instead of a sativa. I’ll try really hard to go to yoga everyday, even when I don’t feel like it.
I’ll renew my Disneyland Season Pass and upgrade to free parking. I’ll go on Soaring Over California five hundred times just to smell the orange groves. I’ll go to Paradise Cove even if there’s a three-hour wait and stick my toes in the sand just like my grandmother did the week before she passed away. I’ll drink wine in Santa Barbara and I’ll ride those dorky 6-person bikes with the canopies on top past the zoo with my brothers. I won’t roll my eyes at the tourists taking pictures of the giant King Kong at City Walk. I’ll never cheat on the hairdresser I’ve had since I was 2 with another chic New York stylist ever again. I’ll actually wear the bathing suit I bought in June and never even donned on the East Coast.
I’ll take the PCH every time I go to Santa Monica or Leo Carillo so that I can watch the sun rise on the ocean. The price of gas is worth it to never have to watch someone shoot heroin and puke on the L train at 4am ever again. I’ll forget about all the hipster shit I worshiped while I lived in Brooklyn. I’ll date some tech nerd from Silicone Valley who won’t break my heart. I’ll try my best not to look bored at another album release party on Sunset. I’ll wear heels every single day because I won’t have to walk two miles to a bar on the Lower East Side. I’ll never say the LA River is disgusting again. I’ll bleach my hair like Gwen Stefani and become a vegan. I’ll donate to LACMA and the aquarium in Marina del Rey. I’ll visit the little elephant stuck at the La Brea Tar Pits. I’ll squint my eyes when I drive down Kanan and try to make out the Channel Islands on every clear day from here on out.
I’ll scribble with crayon on every single tablecloth at Cheebo’s. On Halloween, I’ll wear the skimpiest costume possible because it won’t be 30 degrees out in the middle of a hurricane. If there’s ever a storm, at least it will be tropical. I’ll go to Catalina Island to kayak like I did in 6th grade and this time I won’t get seasick. I’ll embrace the choppy waters as a part of my home. I’ll adore the fault lines that cause earthquakes, scattered in secret places up and down the coast and buried in the desert. I won’t cry when I see the red cursive California adorning the top of every license plate like I did in the south and in the east.
Did I mention I’ll get better at surfing? I will. If only to catch a wave with Anthony Kiedis in Ventura. I’ll eat Yang Chow seven nights a week with my grandmother. I’ll keep that little place in business so they never have to close. I’ll eat so much orange chicken and mushu pork that they’ll have to put my picture up next to Shaquille O’Neal’s in the waiting area.
I’ll spend every morning having breakfast on the patio furniture that used to belong to my grandparents, watching hummingbirds in the backyard. I’ll go swimming. I’ll bring baloney and mustard sandwiches to my old theater director like I used to when I was 10. I’ll make a concentrated effort to get famous like I always said I would. I’ll get rejected at auditions and I’ll develop thicker skin. I’ll get lost in the woods in Mammoth just like I’ll get lost driving to the Staples Center downtown. I’ll go skiing every Christmas with my parents even if there’s a blizzard. I’ll go backpacking with my mom and conquer my namesake, Mt. Whitney, with that photo of my grandfather wearing lederhosen and holding an ice pick at the top of the Matterhorn tucked into my pocket.
I’ll write about every climate, every type of topography. I’ll write about the palm trees downtown and Red Rock Canyon in the desert and the waves on the shore and the moon in the sky. I’ll write about my mother and my father, because they raised me there. I’ll write about my dogs and my best friends, the ones who still care about me even though I’ve been gone all these years. I’ll write about the city humming like a glowing computer chip at night, and I’ll write about the phosphorescent sea creatures glowing in the tide.
I swear, I won’t ever fall in love with anyone other than Los Angeles again. I promise, okay? Please, California, you have to believe me. Just let me come home.