Wednesday, February 20, 2008

you've come a long way, baby

one year ago my guy and i and our furry brood rolled in to los angeles to start anew. we sold our comfortable home in chicago, left all our friends, our families, our jobs, our familiar streets - all in favor of my guy's job and the lure of 70 degrees in the middle of february.

after three days trapped in the confines of a small car with two drugged-out, unhappy cats and a nervous dog, we were beyond relieved to pull up to our new digs around 10:30pm. happy to be finally be free, the dog
sniffed around and the kitties cautiously explored each darkened, bare room while my guy and i quietly snooped the building for the circuit breakers. moments after we got the electricity on, a neighbor came down and banged on the front door. a gruff middle-aged play-boy type barked at my guy, "are you going to use your ceiling fans?" my guy, completely perplexed by not only the brusque demeanor of our new neighbor, but also by the bizarro question, answered, "hi, you must be one of our neighbors? this is belly and i'm her guy. nice to meet you." i guess the ceiling fans rattle when on full speed - and the folks who rented our place before us were engaged in a full fledged pissing contest with this mannerless l.a. type and his clan. the welcoming committee muttered a few more demands regarding our use of our ceiling fans, then turned on his heel, leaving a cloying cloud of testosterone in his wake. i can only assume his brash welcome was an attempt to piss all over us, like a tomcat marking his territory. nice. welcome to fucking l.a. please, god, don't let the stereotypes out here be true!

we were anxious after the run in with the new neighbor. we were also dirty, tired and road weary and ready for the day to be over. i lugged the air mattress out of the car while my guy got the rest of the bags. i began to inflate it but was so nervous about the buzz-saw sound coming from the air mattress inflater that i didn't quite fill it to capacity for fear that someone else would come banging on the door.

all i wanted in the world was to get clean and pass out. i padded into the bare bedroom, fresh from the shower and ready for snuggling. my guy was already passing out on his side of the half-inflated, makeshift bed. forgetting the laws of physics, i jumped onto my side of the air mattress and, much to my horror, sent my guy soaring out of bed. the uneven dispersal of weight served as a springboard, and projected my unsuspecting guy in a perfect arch right out
of the safety and comfort of the bed and smack dab onto the hardwood floor. "WHAT THE FUCK?!" my guy shrieked. i started laughing. i was horrified. my big, fat butt just catapulted my man out of his bed. i was laughing too hard to be embarrassed... and thankfully, soon my guy was in hysterics, too. a perfect end to that day.

the next morning we peeled ourselves off of each other (the half-filled mattress was steadily losing air during the evening, sending us both towards the lowest point of gravity - the middle of the mattress), shook off the soreness of sleeping on a crap bed and went out to the car, ready for a day full of errands. we were greeted with a terse note on our windshield from a peeved neighbor (a different one) who let us know that it was NOT ok for us to be parked in his spot... funny thing was that when we pulled in the nite before, we parked in the only space open. each unit in our building is assigned one designated spot. since someone was parked in ours, we assumed that the management company gave us the wrong info and figured that the only open one must be ours. (i later discovered that it was the note-leaver's roommate who was parked in our spot that nite - which pissed me off even more that he left a note knowing someone from his household was in our parking place. again - welcome to fucking l.a.)

later that afternoon we went on a wild goose chase to get duplicate keys made. we thought our run of shit luck had taken a turn for the better when we found a prime parking spot outside of the third place we were referred to. i waited in the car, chatting on the phone, when lo and behold, L.A.P.D. comes right up behind me and starts writing a ticket... WHILE I WAS SITTING IN THE CAR. "what's up, officer?" i asked. "you're in a no parking zone from 4pm to 7pm." i looked at the clock on the dash: 4:01pm. "but i'm from out of town! i didn't know! it's only 4 right now. can't i move it?" i pleaded. he just kept writing the ticket. the fucker didn't even have the decency to reply - he just finished writing the ticket, put it on the windshield and walked away. that stupid little hard-to-find mailbox key ended up costing us $75. welcome to fucking l.a.

at the end of another sucky day, we took solace in the fact that we were able to at least properly fill the air mattress, preventing any more unexpected human launches and providing a sound sleep. except one of the kitties punctured the friggin' mattress that evening. in the middle of the night, i woke up nearly suffocating in thick plastic polymer - the mattress lost so much air that my ass was on the floor while my limbs and neck were awkwardly propped up by the last bit of air. i maneuvered myself out of my plastic quicksand tomb and started making a bungalow at the foot of the bed. i managed a sad little nest, built from almost-dry towels, my winter coat and some clean socks and underwear. the movers were still two days away and i was doomed to this abysmal sleeping accommodation for another evening. all i could do was cry myself to sleep.

i felt so defeated, so lonely and upset. i had no one but my guy to fall back on - no group of girlfriends to commiserate with over drinks, no family to cry to over a home-cooked meal. no familiarity. los angeles was shaping up to be a great big fuck you and i was not prepared for it. when we left our home, i was full of hope, excitement, and the spirit of adventure. it took exactly two days in l.a. to crush all of the good feelings i brought with me. for two whole days, i wallowed in self pity and lonliness in an empty apartment without a car. even the idea of a simple walk around the neighborhood terrified me. i don't even really remember what i did most of those two days before the movers arrived - i just remember fear. too scared to check out the many nearby shops, boutiques, or grocery store. too scared to do walk up to rodeo drive and window shop. too scared to even take my dog for a potty walk!! i was consumed with the terror of people judging me, terror of getting lost. in my paralyzed state, my fear created this imposing image of what was acceptable, what i had to look like, the show of wealth i would have to display, the style i would have to sport just to be able to go outside in my own neighborhood. it wasn't enough that we got a raw deal upon our arrival to california, but now i was living in a self-imposed prison of fear.

i think it took me a good four months to come out of my shell. slowly i became more familiar with the lay of the land. i introduced myself to my neighbors. i made peace with the false image that my fear created and i was able to just feel good about being me again. i've come a long way in one year. if i take inventory of the events of this past year, the list is significant: i went on a month-long road trip across the western half of the united states, i landed a great gig, i started truly investing in my health, i've committed to being in relationship with my body, i organized a trip to meet friends in vegas, i flew back to chicago a few times, i deepened my relationship with close girlfriends despite the distance, i hiked all over the malibu mountains, i went on my first wine-tasting trip, i started blogging. and the coolest part is that i did this on my own. no friends nearby. no family. no therapist. no familiar city. just me. of course my guy was there every step of the way, lending his strength and love and encouragement, but i'm taking all the credit on this one. i came full circle this past year...all because of me.

it took me a year to do it, but i've finally made peace with this old whore of a town. i've learned to work with the city rather than against it. i've learned to appreciate her jagged visage and hard ways. i don't know if i'll ever feel like i truly belong to this city or it to me, but for now i've found peace with los angeles. i've found peace within me. and that's hot.


Heather said...

I think you are so brave! to pick up everythign and move to a place where you dont know anyone and to have some awful starting exeperiences..I would have been running back to Chicago (where I live btw and never want to leave).

lol picturing the whole air mattress debacle made me laugh so hard!

Jenny said...

I enjoyed this story and it so reminded me when I did a similar thing a few years ago, just within the UK. I moved from England to Wales - shouldn't have been hard, but it was.

You don't appreciate home until you move away; familiarity with the roads, the evening weather forecasts. The locals referred to England as 'that country over there' and then in my new job the phones had to be answered in Welsh, help.

justoofat said...

You've got a lot to be proud of. I know how draining, daunting and just plain difficult a cross country move can be. I agree with the others who've commented on how brave you are... honestly, when you think about how much you've already accomplished, losing a few pounds doesn't seem that hard, does it? Congrats!


Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

That's an awesome post. Thanks for sharing your story of vulnerability and triumph with us. :D

iCANdothis said...

i love the way you write. really, i do. :)

if you ever get sick of LA, OC is better. okay maybe not better, but different. and i love it, though when i first moved here 4 years ago i hated it. i sat on my front porch and cried, what the HECK did i just do?

now i don't see myself leaving anytime soon :)