February 25, 2009

Not Road-Weary Yet

Someone told me once that Los Angeles is a hidden city, and that unless you live there yourself, you have no way of discovering how good it is to live there.

I've been visiting LA since probably 2000 or 2001, taking short business trips a couple times a year, and it's only just recently that I have any level of comfort there. Sure, I've fallen in love with other parts of California, but LA has been somewhat of a hold-out for me.

Until this trip.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm unemployed, and the happiest I've been in seven years. But I found joy in everything in LA from the moment I stepped on the jetway at JFK to the moment I took the redeye back. My flight to Burbank was full of movers and shakers, from those I recognized - Andy Richter, Toccara - to those who just seemed important. When I arrived, I was waiting for my rental car alongside Frank Whaley, and as I got on the road towards my hotel, I passed all the closed roads, valet parking, and other Oscar-related hub-bub (including John Waters in a tux) around Hollywood Blvd and the Kodak Theater. I was happy being neither a mover-and-shaker nor a spectator. I was just passing through, and would watch the telecast on TV just like the rest of the country.

El Carmen

After the telecast, I took the hotel shuttle to El Carmen, a taco bar that boasts 400 tequilas (though not the one I ordered, Alcatraz) and a collection of Mexican wrestler memorabilia. I met a movie financier and his son, who drove me back to my hotel. The next morning, I had an amazing latte and chili poached eggs at Kings Road, served to me by a flirtatious barista whose confidence and familiarity with the clientele made me think he must be the owner, but of course, he's an actor. When he gave me his card, I thought he was flirting with me, but maybe he was just networking.

I was in town on business, after all, so I needed all the networking I could get. A meal spent alone was a meal wasted in my mind, so I packed my schedule cram full from morning til night, driving from Hollywood to Beverly Hills to West Hollywood to Santa Monica to Hollywood to Pasadena to Burbank, ending my trip like many weary travellers at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank, as the sun set behind the palms, just a few miles from the airport.

I didn't visit a lot of my usual haunts on this trip. And I didn't shackle myself to West Hollywood the way I often do to avoid driving, in those cases when I don't make someone else drive my ass around. Instead, I embraced the opportunity to explore the wild, unfamiliar west, meeting friends and clients on their turf (resulting in some fantastic finds, including the Enchiladas Howard at El Coyote).

People have started asking me if I'm going to move to California. The truth is, I don't know. My lease is up in August, so I know I'll be moving somewhere. But if a full-time job presents itself to me on the West Coast, I'm not going to turn it down. And in the meantime, I'm doing some pretty good groundwork to make sure I don't feel so much like an alien out there as I have for the last eight or nine years.

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