Los Angeles: Briefly Motionless
After the friendliness of the Pacific Northwest, LA’s carefully coiffed standoffishness is jarring. I hate this city. What am I doing here?Travel journal, 28 April 2014
After nearly a month of navigating the sharply confusing chaos of a different city every day, I started to spiral towards the familiar. I lived in LA for seven years before coming home to Dublin, and I couldn’t do a whirlwind tour of North America without visiting the friends who remained there. Even with the promise of fond reunions, I viscerally resisted re-entering a city I’d spent so much time wishing I could get away from.
The moment came as we came in the flight path alongside the ridge of mountains separating LA from the rest of California. I looked down over the city with my extraordinarily chatty seatmate, swapping landmarks and little stories about them, and I experienced the same looming dread I used to have when returning to Atlanta: “Dear God above what was I thinking coming back here?” These are places I spent a lot of time and effort getting away from, so returning voluntarily felt like a bad plan.
I had similar feelings for a long time about going to the US at all, but those worries tended to wear off once I got where I was going. With time and Irish citizenship, eventually even those dissolved.
Once I tumbled off the plane I was ready to greet the friend I’d be staying with, a Los Angeles native, with the line “Make me not hate LA.” That turned out to be an imperfect plan, as he was in the middle of a call when he picked me up. I sat quietly and poked at my phone while he worked his way through two calls. By the time he was free to talk, my clever line stopped being appropriate.
He proceeded, despite the lack of deliberate request, to make me not hate LA. I found over the next few days, that while LA had not changed, I had.
I spent that first afternoon in a hammock on the deck. I looked out over the city, in the shade on one of those rare LA days when it’s neither too cold nor too hot to sit outside. Even the atmosphere was cleaner than usual; I could see the mountains and the city. My friend worked and I poked at my computer and I enjoyed just being, for a little while.