Admittedly, I typically don't get into a television series until it's at least one or two seasons in. Time-tested, you know? Can't be jumping on every bandwagon out there; I'd never get anything done. And the ads this time of year for all the new dramas and sitcoms don't help - you'd think television was the greatest invention since the printing press, and that the new shows waiting to snatch your attention away from more worthy pursuits are Gutenberg's bible.
Hence, I am about the last person to show up to the cocktail party that is otherwise known as AMC's Mad Men. Season one recently fell into my possession from Brady, by way of Brett. And of course I'm shamelessly addicted. And of course Ashley and I blew through the four discs in a longish-weekend. And of COURSE Brett doesn't own season 2 on DVD! Which brings me to the point of this post in the first place: I was poking around The World Wide Interwebs last night looking to see if I could find season 2 anywhere, and the first place I looked was AMC's website, hoping to find a full episode player that every. other. station. seems to have adopted.
While AMC is pitifully behind the Hulu curve, I did find something ELSE to occupy my time. I present to you, dear readers, Mad Men Yourself. A tacky promo piece of schlock designed to accomplish very little except endlessly amuse the lonely souls who bide their time Mad Men-ning all of their friends.
(A lonely soul like me, apparently, because that's exactly what I did.)
I need a gimlet.
Lately it seems the question of the hour (especially given my recent cross-country jaunts) hovers indelicately around my feelings about the New York Exodus 2009, more specifically: Laurel, when are you going to move to New York?
After all, no less than 6 of my friends have moved out there since this time last year, a gestalt-y indication that the times are, indeed, a-changin'. So I'm trying to, ahem, prance somewhat delicately around the subject in a way that exalts the merits of Los Angeles County living while not simultaneously offending the East Coast portion of my friendbase. After all, NYC was glorious. It was as romantic and wounded as any song ever written about it. In short - it was exactly as it appears to be: a booming, glittery metropolis chockablock full of options, options, options. So no disrespect, NYC. I get it. And I miss my California ex-pats dearly.
But I feel as though people have forgotten about LA, and in this case, I can only dutifully remind them: I love this city. I understand this city (no small feat, and I realize I'm amongst the few and proud since many come and go before fully harvesting the fruits of their labor). For all its qualms and earth-quaking unpredictability, I've found a considerable amount of comfort in this city. (Yes, seriously.) For one, there's the weather. Practically perfect in every way, even despite the vicious jags of heat from August - September. Balmy and warm nearly every day, the seasons unfurl with a quirky, only-in-LA sensibility: Sun & mudslides in the spring. Sun & earthquakes in the summer. Santa Ana winds & fires in the fall. Rain (but mostly sun) in the wintertime. And then there's the light, a concept LAist's Carrie Meathrell discussed at length:
"Los Angeles has its microclimates of cool and warm air pockets that gardeners are attuned to when planting in spring. Unlike any other American city, it is also splintered into numerous subdivisions of light—apertures of sky that blaze, glow, glimmer, and dim, depending on season and landscape: the sad, failing light in October, the muzzy pall above the Valley that hangs like wet linen in November, the gin-clear fluorescence of April, the kaleidoscopic photochemical sunsets of July. Then comes tropical August, when under mackerel skies, light drops like periwinkle confetti across the city's expanse."
The underlying point here is that to live in LA is to develop a more acute sense of observation about the city itself. Anyone lives here - really lives here - must, if they want to experience the veritable bounty that LA has to offer, become somewhat of an anthropologist. The characteristics bolstering the neighborhoods and outlying cities that cushion LA's core certainly aren't a quick read, in fact, most people I've talked to have confessed to a number of years living here before truly loving it, if they ever learned to love it at all. But in the spirit of full disclosure, and as someone who has explored Los Angeles county like it's her job, here are the reasons, in no particular order, why I'm resolutely bound to the West Coast for the time being:
1. The foliage. Yes, the foliage. Dense thickets of eucalyptus, the nostalgic fragrance of night-blooming jasmine, patrician tangles of wisteria - I could wax rhapsodic about the romance inherent in LA's indigenous flora and fauna for days. Like the bohemian clouds of bougainvillea. Oh, the bougainvillea! Exultant poufs flanking the shoulders of countless chainlink fences who soldier on down the boulevards! Or a twilight sky marked by a cadre of open-faced palms, worshipful and adoring though they are, lonely icons unmarked by the mores of mortal trappings!
2. The dive bars. I love the way all dive bars smell damp and earthy like old dollar bills. I love that there are so many places in LA county to get a cheap drink. I love that there are tiki bars the size of closets and music venues so small the only components crammed into them are a postage stamp-size stage and two bars. I love these dark denizens of mirthful living; unpretentious and welcoming, bastions of a time when the concept dressing up and waiting in line to drink a beer was beyond absurd.
3. The drive. I loathe traffic as much as the next guy, but if I'm being honest, most of my fondest memories involve not point A or point B, but driving between the two. Windows down, music up, singing as loud as I please. Hair. Wind. Scenery melting onto my windshield. Flickering constellations zooming across a starless sky. Conversations shared with the bright altar of the dashboard. It's not that public transportation isn't convenient, but so much is lost when your eyes glaze over and all your vacant stare absorbs for an hour is the advertisement posted on the wall of the subway.
4. The space. I'm not craving the yawning chasm of the prairie or Alaska's hyperbolic tundra, but I do like my space, and I like to know that there are places I can go within a few minutes' driving time that provide solace in spades. I crave empty restaurants and roving expanses of grass and the kind of streets where I don't have to ride my bike as aggressively as I drive my car just to stay alive. And though some might complain that everything in Los Angeles is too spaced out, I might argue that there are significant stretches within that space wherein one can get lost, then found, then lost again. And I love the possibilities therein.
5. The people. What can I say? I am lucky to have a community that feels more like a family, and I wouldn't trade that in for all the Jade Island tiki drinks in the world.
6. The possibilities. Speaking of, one of the things I love the most about LA are the possibilities. To be intentionally trite: they are endless. There is always something more to discover, a restaurant tucked into a quiet neighborhood or an abandoned zoo or sunken city or a stunning view or a quaint lighthouse or a garden co-op or a sinuous road or a bridge to be crossed. It just takes a little time and a lot of searching, but what I love most about LA is that even though I've lived here for eight years, I've only just scratched the surface of discovery.
Which is why I'm not moving anywhere else anytime soon.
"C'mon strong winds, move on. You belong in the city, I'm wrong for the city. Switch on a sad song when I'm gone." - Islands, "Switched On"
While I was home for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the month, I shot some images for my mom, who is a project coordinator (or something like that) for the elementary ed faction of my hometown church. She's going to blow the pics up and post them around the various classrooms on campus. Despite a couple of reluctant subjects (and a couple of hams), most of the kids were oblivious to my presence. Here are some of my favorites.
LD: So...you've been hanging around this week, any major plans I should know about?
Apathetic Cold Virus: Eh...
LD: No, seriously. What's with you? You've been half-assing it up like it's your job, but you're acting like you're super disgruntled with your job, so - are you jonesing for a layoff? Because I could hop on the EmergenC wagon any second, you know.
ACV: Right, but like...it's so hot out. I could smite you with a massive sinus headache. I could fester in your lungs and afflict you with the most lung-shredding whooping cough you've ever had. Heck, I COULD even flick the switches of hot-cold-hot fever like it's Studio 54, but...I dunno...
LD: ...It's just so hot, right?
ACV: [sighs] Right.
LD: I mean, I saw what you did you Adam and Bonnie in New York, you know. I notice those things.
ACV: That was a nice time. But the weather was so much more autumnal! EVERYTHING in New York really is better.
LD: Now listen, don't start in on that tangent. I can handle an apathetic cold, but not a judgmental one.
ACV: Right. Sorry. Just wishing for greener grass, I guess. In the meantime, how's some post-nasal drip? Are we copacetic with that?
LD: I suppose so. Let me grab my roll of TP. [sighs]
An iChat between Jessica and myself today:
LD: Well, six shots later...I'm officially immunized.JK: Nice. Please tell me you started *after* noon.LD: What? No, why? My appt. was at 9am.JK: OH. When you said shots I thought you meant whiskey for your throat. And when you said "immunized" I thought you meant drunk.LD: OH! Well, it's not like that isn't REALISTIC. And anyway, that was yesterday.*
And so I suppose the real news of the hour, and the reason I wrote this post in the first place is to share that in two weeks, your girl Friday is going to Africa for two weeks! I'll be in Kenya and Ethiopia shooting pictures for a non-profit that I'm excited to share more details about in the near future. But for now: My arms aren't nearly as achy as I thought they'd be for taking such a beating this morning, and I'm beyond excited for this amazing opportunity!
*It was only one shot, to be fair, because I'm battling the latent onset of a cold shared by both Bonnie and Adam in New York - but in the interest of only medicating with the very best, it was the 12 year reserve. (And yes, gargling with whiskey then doing a shot really does help a sore throat, in case you were firing up your case that I'm just an alcoholic with better shoes.)
Before I went to NYC, I spent a week-and-a-half in my hometown in Oregon, catching up on hours of cable TV and spending too much time trying to get decent pictures of my dog, Rosie. Here's a glimpse into my week of loafing and drinking buckets of Diet Coke:
I spent most of my time in NYC with Adam Sjoberg, photographer, blogger, and yenta extraordinaire. He shot a bit on his dad's old Konica film camera, but he also shared a few of his iPhone snaps on his blog this morning. Here's the photo proof that I was actually in New York. See more at his blog, Loose Luggage, including his more detailed recounting of our adventures.
How can I even begin to recount my weeklong foray into the dizzyingly chaotic world of NYC?
Here are a few excerpts from various sources that serve as a sort of text-scrapbook of my week. Things I wrote. Things I read. Things I listened to. And of course - pictures I took.
"Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. Like Arcs comes the bridegroom, taller far than a tall man. Love, Irving Sappho, formerly under contract to Elysium Studios Ltd. Please be happy happy happy with your beautiful Muriel. This is an order. I outrank everybody on this block."- J. D. Salinger, Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction
"Unique New York. A saying that, said ten times fast, jumbles the phrase beyond intelligible meaning. All that's left by around repetition 8 or 9 is a mouthful of clunkish, foreign sounds completely devoid of context. It's like an attempt at reciting throaty phrases in a French film without knowing the language. It's like when Neko Case says 'I'm an animal, you're an animal too.' It's like all those things, all at once.
And so New York, unique but jumbled; a phrase repeated ad infinitum in all manners of media, new & old. By the time I finally got my chance to shout it from the rooftops - Unique! New York! - the sounds were as convoluted as the jangly measure of buildings crowding midtown. But what's more, it feels like I've been here before. So what can be said about a city that never sleeps (in fact, let's just drag all those comatose clichés from the vaults while we're at it)? It has therefore lost a considerable amount of mystery - nothing that hasn't already been said or sung (if you're Ryan Adams or Frank Sinatra, and what an ear-splitting mashup that would be).
So I'll say this much: Never before has an island felt so insular. Not even on the farther reaches of St. Thomas or St. Maarten. New York is as self-absorbed a place as exsits on this side of God's green earth. Not even LA, for its yawning chasm of moral and ethical ambivalence, can compete. For one, on a clear day in LA - which is about as elusive as seeing Christ's likeness in the clouds - you can see mountains. That seems to make a difference.'
- A journal entry I wrote while nursing a rather bitter black iced tea at the Tea Lounge on 7th and Union
"You could say it's my instinct / yes, I still have one. There's no time to second guess it / yes, there are things that I'm still so afraid of / but my courage is roaring like the sound of the sun / 'cos it's vain about its main and will reveal them to no one. I'm an animal / you're an animal, too."- Neko Case, "I'm An Animal"
"And thus we embarked on a day-long journey to Staten Island in search of one thing, and one thing only: Gigantic tiki drinks at an authentic time-warpy tiki lounge. [After taking the ferry] we waited for the S44 bus to take us deep, deep into the terrifyingly suburban bowels of Staten Island. We were on the bus for what seemed like forever before it deposited us in the middle of a mall parking lot. 'What is this,' we shouted, 'LA MIRADA??'
But Adam quelled our fears. 'NEVER FEAR,' he bellowed, brandishing his secret weapon: 'I have an iPhone!'
Sweet success! Jade Island, a time capsule of Polynesian-inspired pop kitschery, replete with thatched roof huts and blowfish-shaped lamps. And the drinks, I'm happy to report, were not only stiff as a board and cheap as a trollop, but were served in hollowed-out pineapples that, as Janelle pointed out, weren't ridiculous or fussy enough on their own, leading to the technicolor pinwheel garnish. Smart. Jon carved the guts out of his pineapple before jumping off the train ENTIRELY by ordering a Manhattan.
Did I mention that the drink menu consisted of cheap tiki drinks and old-school classic cocktails, most of which were under $5? Because if that doesn't just scream LAUREL ERIN DAILEY, then pretty much nothing does."
- A Facebook recounting of my trip
"Never thought I'd feel so blue / New York City, you're almost gone. / Think I'm falling out of love with you."-Ryan Adams, "Dear Chicago"