Leaving for L.A.
I grew up in Los Angeles. I was born in Boulder, Colorado — but my five-year journey through Los Angeles transformed me from child to adult, boy to man. It left an indelible mark upon my heart, my mind and my soul.
I left for Los Angeles the first time in 2004 — heading to architecture school at USC as a seventeen-year-old boy — and I had never seen anything so beautiful. I reveled in the newness, the grit, the freedom — and I dove in, headfirst.
I drank sake on Sunset Boulevard at a sushi dive with my dorm-mates, snuck mojitos at Paladar, swigged vodka out of a flask on the street outside of Tigerheat. I bought tacos for sex workers on the street after dancing for hours, ate countless Dodger dogs on the curb, did homework at Nobu in Malibu over employee-discount rock shrimp tempura. I spent days making cardboard study models at my studio desk, read textbooks shirtless on the quad, wrote a letter to my Structures professor instead of taking the final. I ate, over-ate, didn't eat. I revered most of my professors, ignored all of my TAs, revolted against rules both fair and unfair. I went to bars, got kicked out of bars, got banned from bars for picking fights with the bouncers. I drove to Mexico, flew to China, took the train to San Diego. I dated introspective writers, abusive alcoholics, beautiful idiots from 'The Days of our Lives.' I felt loved, felt lost, felt alone. I fell in love, broke many hearts, had my heart broken too many times to count. I made a few friends, lost a lot of friends, gained a second family — new brothers, new sisters, too close to explain.
I left Los Angeles in 2009. I had to — the financial crisis was in full meltdown, and all tenuous job offers had evaporated. I made $1,500 a month and my rent was $1,100 a month, for a 325-square-foot former hotel room in Koreatown. I had battled eating disorders throughout my later years in the city — the newest incarnation and my PTSD from abusive relationships long past were playing off of each other. Near the end, I would venture out of my tiny apartment virtually only to buy food, and then sequester myself for days at a time, deep in shame. My friends had largely moved away, and I had alienated or exhausted the rest. I was crushed that my imagined life hadn't appeared, that the promised success and glory never materialized. I felt utterly hopeless, and I placed the blame on Los Angeles; the places, the relationships, the school.
I drove away from that apartment one midnight in May 2009, and I sobbed until we reached Nevada.
Those five years changed me, forever. They also changed Los Angeles for me, forever. I had stored my grief and my anger and my pain over the entirety of that city — each street corner, each landmark had an attached memory. It was difficult to go back. The memories washed over me as we rode through town, as we walked around my former haunts.
It took seven years to learn to love L.A. again. Seven years of cautious trips, stop-and-go therapy and self-reflection. Seven years of revising, revisiting, rewriting my history. Our last trip was in November 2016, and I finally felt free. I was starting to rediscover and remember the happy times, the bright memories underneath my grief. I remembered the salt in the air at Point Dume, the lingering spice of a bowl of soy-sauce #3 ramen at Orochon in Little Tokyo, the quiet mornings sketching my favorite pieces of architecture in Downtown. I remembered the joy, the warmth, the excitement. I was able to show Mark (my future husband) my favorite haunts and landmarks, as if I was also seeing them for the first time. It felt like 2004 again.
It's said that your body completely renews itself every seven years. I am excited to wander back through L.A. once more as an entirely new person, free of grief and anger — ready to experience it all over again. Next week, we head to L.A. for five days of friends, food and flânerie.
See you Monday, L.A. Can't wait to see what you'll offer me this time around.