June 28, 2011

Have a Nice Life

"Don't read too much into this..." I prefaced my declaration to Edith, because I'd been fairly obviously dropping hints about her moving to LA ever since I did five months ago.

"But isn't this nice? Isn't LA nice?"

We were standing at an unusually high elevation in the eastern end of Hollywood, with a view normally necessitated by a tall building in New York, but provided to us Friday night by the top of Barnsdall Art Park, a weird little hilltop public park that lets you look down onto the city without having to hike a mountain. I pointed westward, where palm trees dotted the hazy gray horizon, providing a smog-stockinged skyline of tropical stillness, their top-heavy trunks delicate like dandelion stalks. We couldn't see the buildings below them, only the filtering haze and the disappearing light.

Glass of wine in hand, I inhaled the open air, looked up at the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood Sign - always my beacons whether up there in Griffith Park or down below - and could only utter the simplest, most mundane descriptor: nice.

Somehow in my time in New York, or before that in childhood, I forgot what nice was, or why nice was so nice. Maybe I never knew. The New York attitude dictates that "nice" be considered weak, boring, bland, soft, pale, effete, effeminate, ephemeral. To be strong and interesting and worthwhile in New York, you have to walk around covered in dirt, living in filth, breathing in black air and black thoughts and black intentions. Grit and grime, darkness and shadows, shivering and sweating and soaking feet make you cool and resilient. You don't have to grin and bear it; you just have to bear it. Or be gone.

I did my time, and then I got gone. And now I'm allowing myself to drive a nice car down a nice palm tree-lined street to my nice apartment with my nice neighbors and jasmine-scented yard.

Back home at my apartment, Edith and I were chatting and she remarked, "I like the way your building smells" - a compliment considering its age (80+ years) and its inhabitants (20- and 30-something singles).

"I know!" I chimed in. "Isn't it nice?"

In Praise of the Nice Guy

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