I’ve been struggling with something for most of my life. It wasn’t something I’ve ever clearly identified until now. Sort of like a thing you keep seeing out of the corner of your eye but can’t fully discern, and every time you turn your head to catch it, it disappears as though it never existed. Then finally, one day, your reflexes happen to have been +1upped by some stroke of fate, and this time, when you turn around- AHA! – you spot what’s been following you around all this time. That nagging feeling you couldn’t shake, now identified as what is seemingly an actual living, breathing entity, blinking and never taking his eyes of you. We’ll call him Bill.
Now, it has finally come to my attention that Bill has been stalking me for a long, long time. Perhaps longer than I even remember. He says things to me when I go out for social events, like “You don’t fit in your here. You’re not like the rest of them,” and “Don’t bother voicing your opinions; they’re too abstract and besides, no one will listen over the slurping of their caramel machiatto.”
Often, he will follow me places like Newport Beach, where I sometimes go to escape the hectic city. Even then, when the peaceful waves crashing against the shoreline aren’t enough to quell my desires, he whispers, “See? You don’t belong here.”
I’ve wanted for a long time for it not to be true. I’ve wanted to get along with my city. I could never say I loved LA, but I’d at least like to be on good terms with it. A meet-up-for-drinks-once-a-week kind of relationship. But no. No, LA and I were born together as siblings; constantly at war with each other but indelibly interlinked. LA is all the things I dislike (ostentatious, loud, dirty) and I am the things it dislikes (anti-consumerist, innately reclusive, quietly contemplative). We have tried, but no more can we reconcile our differences than can the moon cease rising in a post-sunlit sky.
Bill has made as many attempts to remedy my discontent as I myself have.
“Portland?” He asks.
“Too hipster,” is my reply.
“How about Boston, or New York?”
“Too east coast.”
“Agreed. How about someplace completely unexpected, like Bali?”
“Sure, someday. But not right now.”
“Okay, what about London?”
Our conversations continue like this for some time, rarely establishing anything but only confirming a fact that can no longer be disputed: LA is not mine. It is not my city, it is not my companion, it is not my home. To me, the streets of Hollywood are just a proverbial jail cell, and no distance you walk within it will ever unveil the key.
It’s not just the overall landscape; there are some nice things to see here. It’s also the people. The closer you get to the heart of the city, the less human connection you feel. Or so I notice. You’ll be sitting on a bench, minding your business when you happen to look up at a passerby. He or she will catch your eye, just briefly, then resume staring at the ground, as though to say, “Dude. I’ve got my own problems to deal with.”
Sure, the place is filled with artists and actors, musicians and magicians, choreographers and cartoonists. It’s the entertainment capitol of the world. These people naturally band together, being gregarious creatures, and strive toward success as a single unit rather than one individual. However, it is an elite circle and those too lowly and too incapable of taking a seat in it get sucked under the wheels. I myself am no longer interested in this caravan.
While I am fundamentally unhappy with the city I reside in, am I simultaneously uplifted by the thought of returning to Bill for yet another long discussion over tea about whether I would look better in parkas in Moscow, sandals in Australia or kimonos in Tokyo.
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