The L.A. Mystique

A door in West Hollywood

I learned about L.A. from Sex and the City, just as I had learned about toxic bachelors, Manolo Blahniks and the importance of having good friends. Los Angeles, it seemed, was populated with a mix of Paris Hilton clones, aging bachelors and vegans. Surely, it was no place for someone like me–someone who relishes wearing long sleeves year-round, has introverted tendencies and orders steak like a Texan. 

I remember when my boyfriend took me around L.A. for the first time. We got a car wash, went to a denim store, had lunch at a sidewalk restaurant, drove around, and ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant. The day felt like a cardboard cut-out of itself. I had no connection to any of it. I thought to myself, I could never live in L.A.

If L.A. were a fabric, it'd be rayon, something that's not natural yet not exactly artificial. There's a strange sense of detachment that pervades this city. It feels like a village composed of millions of closed societies. There are canyons and strip malls and magnificent homes behind hedges and ivy-covered walls. The weather is eerily nice nearly all of the time. 

I didn't know if I would like L.A. but, now, I'm unexpectedly loving it. 

I enjoy going on morning hikes at Runyon Canyon with Taylor, strolling along Melrose Place, hanging out with Bill at his apartment while we cook dinner and watch TV shows, having lunch at Croft Alley, browsing the book selections at Book Soup, grabbing happy hour at Marvin or Terrine, and reading or writing back at The Clubhouse.

All of the places that I've been frequenting and all of the people who have become friends happened through an organic gravitational pull. Because of that, I'm experiencing this city authentically for myself. It's through the little choices and decisions that you make everyday that create your world, your reality. 

I don't know when or if I'll ever qualify as an Angeleno. To be honest, I still consider myself a New Yorker when people ask where I'm from, even though I haven't lived there in nearly three years. However, I'm finding myself easily trading in New York's dynamic energy for L.A.'s relaxed vibes. Instead of being pulled together, I now feel comfortably unraveled, like a head of beachy waves.

 

The Stories We Tell

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I decided to manifest my childhood dream of becoming an author this year. This re-ignition was sort of fueled when I attended Cindy Chupack's book reading at Book Soup in L.A. at the beginning of January. (She's an author and a screenwriter. Most notably, many of her dating experiences have been written into Sex and the City.) Somehow, chatting with her made me feel like I can do this. That I could, quite possibly, have it in me to write a book. I mean, I have good stories and I'm now living in the most ideal place to write–isolated in the mountains–so it'd be stupid for me not to do something about it. 

After taking a few stabs at some sample chapters on my own, I decided to work with an editor. In addition to guiding me through story development, having an editor helps me mentally commit to this "project." Prior to our call, I had sent her a synopsis and two sample chapters which took me a couple of months to produce. I had mined through a personal collection of experiences and did my best to weave all of the key events together in a meaningful way. It was a lot like throwing spaghetti against the wall. I knew that it needed more work, but the gist of it was there. Based on what she read, she told me that I had good instincts and that she can sense an overarching journey–we'll just need to work together in the next upcoming weeks to uncover it. 

Our phone call reminded me of a therapy session, except my editor would refer to me as the character. She asked me questions like: What is her identity at the beginning of this journey? and What is she after? What does she want to be? How is her perspective changing? She wanted me to peel back the layers of the onion. "It's not about what happened," she said, "The reader wants to know how it affected you." 

I think the reason why I've been having such writer's block is because I am still, at this very moment, trying to figure out how my experiences have affected me. I want to go "there" with my writing and I want to go "there" in my life... To really kind of float out of my own body and see everything holistically and as purely as possible.

In the meantime, I'm looking at different ways people or characters deal with themselves honestly by: flipping through The Andy Warhol Diaries, watching Louis C.K.'s stand-up comedy, re-reading Bridget Jones' Diary, watching Sex and the City re-runs, and ordering films like Frances Ha and Tiny Furniture from Criterion Collection, which explore the burgeoning anxieties of young women. 

Here are a few words from the verbal mood board that I've scribbled down in my notebook as inspiration:

REVELATION
AUTHENTICITY
BRAVADO
INDEPENDENCE
FREEDOM
HOPEFUL
EARNEST
AWKWARD
CELEBRATION
PROFOUND
WHIMSICAL
CHARMING
INCANDESCENT
FOIBLES
TRANSITIONS
MORTIFICATION
GRAND
ROMANTIC

Writing is just as expressive as painting and, conversely, just as mechanical as mathematics (or anything else that involves problem-solving). Sometimes it comes easily to me and, at other times, it's completely challenging. But whatever it is, I want to get it right. I can feel the story brewing inside of me. I just need to find a way to pour it out...