An LA Story

This morning, like every morning, I took my dog out for our walk. Since it’s Saturday, I wasn’t exactly in a rush. I like our weekend jaunts the best, because I don’t have to get annoyed with her sniffing the same bush three times instead of pooping, thereby, making me late for work.

There’s a woman across the street who has an old dog that never strays more than ten feet from her. Because of her dog’s proximity and geriatric disinterest in most things, the woman spends her whole walks staring into her phone. I don’t take my phone with me, because if I did, I’d spend the whole time staring into it, too.

It occurred to me that, if some psycho killer decided to dispose of us in an alley somewhere, the police would have a hard time identifying me since I never take anything on our walks–no phone, no wallet, no keys even. Fortunately, my dog has tags. Phew.

I don’t take anything with me, because I do my best thinking on these walks. A lot of the posts on this blog, including this one, were conceived on our walks. I don’t know how I wrote anything before I got a dog.

This morning, I passed an ordinary looking couple on the sidewalk. They didn’t seem too freaked out by my dog–a lot of people are terrified of her because she’s not small–still, I made sure that she was on the right as they passed on the left. It’s only polite. As we passed, I gave them a neighborly smile and mumbled, “Mornin’.” They kept walking as if I was invisible. No response. “How rude!” I thought, but then I remembered that this is Los Angeles.

On the whole, people in Los Angeles aren’t any ruder than people anywhere else in the world, but they’re certainly less friendly than a lot of places. There are ten million of us in LA county. Ten million people going about their daily lives with ten million people in the way doesn’t leave a lot of room for neighborly niceties. We’re used to, and expect, anonymity. In a city this big, you have to carve out your own little space and cling to it.

I found myself wondering how I became one of ten million. I never wanted to live in Los Angeles. It’s not that I was against it; it’s just something I never considered. When I was a fifteen year old in Detroit and first seriously hatched a plan to get the hell out of my family’s house, Los Angeles was not one of the places I considered running away to. It was too far away, too big, too phony. Like everyone else on the planet who’s never spent any real amount of time here, I had preconceived notions. You know what they are. Hollywood, celebrities, mansions, fake tans, hippies… in the Midwest, they call California the land of fruits and nuts. Fruits and nuts are grown here, but the double entendre is that California is full of queers.

It took over a year before I felt slightly at home. Los Angeles is not an easy place to live. We’re very welcoming to visitors, but not so nice to people who want to stay. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen “go home” in the fifteen years I’ve lived here. They couldn’t hack it. Los Angeles only accepts the natives and the determined.

When I moved here, I was determined. I needed a fresh start. I had just gotten out of an eight-year abusive relationship. I packed up all of the things that would fit into a tiny U-haul trailer and moved clear from one coast of the United States to the other. I moved here because of my best friend. She had just broken up with her fiancé and was looking for a fresh start, too.

I never decided to move to Los Angeles; I was just determined to leave Boston. It didn’t matter where we went. I would have gone with my best friend had she been moving to Des Moines, Jerusalem or London, but she chose Los Angeles, because we had friends here. Ironically, the friend we stayed with when we first arrived was one of those can’t hack it types who followed the “go home” call less than a year after we moved here. My friend and I heard it, too, but we stayed. Fifteen years later, we’re both still here, whether we really want to be or not.

Perhaps I didn’t heed “go home” because I don’t have one. My hometown is lost to me. The domestic violence monster saw to that when almost all of my friends there took his side over mine. I couldn’t go home because Detroit is not only my hometown, it’s the pedophile and the domestic abuser’s hometown, too. There are too many ghosts there.

I look at the coffee cup my sister got me that I randomly chose this morning and wonder what it really means or if it means anything at all anymore.
I can never live there again, or at least, if I do, I’d have to start over from scratch. I am stateless, but really, I suppose I’m not. I’m an Angelino, but after fifteen years, LA still doesn’t entirely feel like home. It’s just where all my stuff is.

Through a series of unplanned events, life’s current brought me here. I stuck it out and I’m still here. I’ve lived here as long as I was alive before I decided to get out of my family’s house. Fifteen years. Just as I didn’t make a choice to move here, I didn’t make a choice to stay. It just happened and now, fifteen years have passed.

As I walked by that couple this morning, I wondered, if I lived somewhere else, would my slight greeting be considered rude? Would my half-smile and mumbled mornin’ not be enough to sate the friendliness of other climes? Here, it was ignored. Somewhere else, it might not be enough.

My story is an LA story–one of millions–and I’m not quite sure how it came to be mine.