~returning to my roots~

July 22nd, 2009

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Driving the freeways of LA I am struck by how much it can seem like an 8mm home movie that’s been tucked away in a shoebox since 1924. The light, the washed out colors, the dry, unfurling landscapes, the industry, the red thread of…promise? possibility? Well no, it in part feels over, a dream unrealized, the evidence. But there remains a trace, a promise of possibility perhaps edging on reinvention mania: try something new.

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You know the concept of terroir, the way soil, climate and topography influence the grape and wine from a specific region? Let’s say the same can be applied to people. I’ve been pondering what it means to be an American, New Yorker, a Californian.

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About three weeks into our new life in Berlin I was summoned to Los Angeles for a two-week surprise visit. Though what brought me here was deeply sad, the experience is also lovely in many ways, the best of which is getting to spend time with my mom and family with no event such as Christmas or a wedding to fuss about. We’ve hung out, swam in the Pacific, made margaritas and homemade salsa, played games, chatted. Loverly!

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Having been born and raised in Southern California I always have a visceral response to this landscape, and after a year and a half of living in Europe, it is especially good to be somewhere deeply, primally familiar.

No trip to LA of mine escapes a Joni Mitchell soundtrack, she says regarding time spent in Europe: It’s too old, and cold, and settled in its ways here, oh but California! I would add, it’s hard living in a foreign land, as much as it is exciting. Not being understood both practically and esoterically, having simple things be strangely complicated, what is new and thrilling can also be frustrating and exhausting, which is perhaps the universal nature of new as opposed to familiar, cozy.

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As I have no wheels, in the whole of this time I will never make it to Hollywood (my hometown), or Echo Park or Venice, or anywhere I would commonly go. I’m just kicking in Laguna Beach, where I have no history, at Mom’s seaside cottage. So that’s interesting too, all the California cozy, none of the ghosts.

We went to Trader Joe’s and drove along the inches-away-eye-level ocean view of PCH to get there. There was California wine and 80s music (Psychedelic Furs) in the produce aisle. I was chatted up by the stoner-mellow checker. This made me absurdly happy. (anyone remember the sour Swiss checker who for 18 months saw me nearly every day and behaved as if each time was the first? merci-madam-bon-après-midi and so on.)

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I eaten tacos for days. I’ve wandered the neighborhood admiring the Arts and Crafts architecture. I’ve dug the scrubby canyon and eucalyptus. I loved having a little sand on everything. I’ve collected seashells and sometimes can hear the waves from my bed before sleep. I appreciate being the child of liberal hippy parents among the children of the same. I can just be.

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In an unfortunate melding of life and well, life, I have also returned to my red hair roots, the flaming purple red of my Mission-dwelling self. This was not as planned and will be fixed when I can visit my hair fairy in Manhattan. In the meantime however, I am something of a spectre of my long-ago San Franciscan self.

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