L.A., Day One
It’s odd to travel from a place with defined seasons to a place that is verifiably without them. All of the junctures in the trip become noticeable — it’s like walking out of an air-conditioned store into the summer heat. The air becomes a palpable thing, pillowy thick with humidity and scent — while just moments ago it was just ice-sharp, cold. It’s like walking into a wall of dense steam. We left 45°F Denver for 95° Los Angeles — and immediately upon disembarking, the faint grey gloom of Denver disappeared into the Southern California heat.
We left home at 07:00, and walked a few blocks out of the way to pick up a car2go to ferry us and our bags the ten blocks or so to the RTD station — a six-block affair in itself, an example of when it’s probably best to let go of a previous plan and embrace the moment at hand. 45 minutes on the train eastward out of the city with jittery students and their parents, construction workers, businesspeople — a man with a gold Rolex and a moustache was due to get on a flight in 29 minutes, while 35 minutes away from the airport. A chilly rush from the train, then to check-in, through security to the terminal. Eggs and orange juice at Modern Market, a sparkling SmartWater at a ubiquitous airport shop (name lost to time), email catch-up by the gate.
Spent the flight working on the crossword — cheated at the end because we’re impatient.
Sarah (Palin) / (iron and nitrous) oxides / (Sir) Mix-a-Lot / Strait (of Gibraltar).
We practically ran out of the airport, shedding layers as we went. First to go was the Le Laboureur work-jacket, then the hoodie — they became a clump of black perched on our very prompt (and very black) suitcases. Wove our way out of the LAX snarl deep into the hills to our home for the week — a perfect little green house in Silver Lake, tucked into a corner, resplendent with ancient tree cacti and a shady courtyard.
We had a meeting scheduled for 16:00, so right back we went into the city — La Cienega and Melrose, the world of the Instagram influencer. As we wandered away from our car, we passed a young man posing on a step stool, his face pressed into the voluminous white bougainvillea above the sidewalk. His friend wielded a phone camera, while the shirtless man wore a blank fashion-ready pout, round lensless frames and a chambray shirt around his shoulders just-so. Around the corner, between Marc Jacobs and Zero + Maria Cornejo, another — a cartoonish Russian pair. The pixie of a woman had an ice-blonde Anna Wintour bob and her companion towered over her with his massive Canon, in mismatched / distressed / expensive prints and flip-flops with camouflage socks. She wore a leather skirt, her makeup spotted with sweat, the clothing tags still fluttering in the barely-there warm breeze. We headed for Alfred, and the man followed behind to retrieve iced coffee — leaving the woman barking quietly into a phone, sweat mixing with foundation and running in streaks down her forehead.
I drained my iced matcha latte immediately, as we walked across Melrose to Away. A casual pop-in turned into “a bit of a shop” — we left with mod suitcase graphic stickers (a noted departure from our very monochrome existance) and a candle scented after the Jardin du Luxembourg, where we got engaged almost exactly two years ago to the day. Then Kelly Wearstler’s shop — a dead-silent, formidable, and vaguely intimidating temple of brass / stone / perforations.
Met our friend at Farrow & Ball — dreamt of repainting the entire house. Wandered to the Belmont for a late-late lunch — club soda + ahi tuna salad — and design conversations.
Afterwards, we walked across Clinton Street to Fairfax, and we passed the perfect house for sale. 1930s Spanish, arched window, ivy. Tiny courtyard, tall palm holding court. (I snapped a photo to manifest such a house in the future.) Down Fairfax, past the hordes waiting for The Price is Right and into the hordes at the Grove, to Barneys New York. I’d been needing (wanting, as need is a strong word) a new scent and tried every single bottle of Byredo, settling on Sunday Cologne. The man at the mirrored cashier desk had started that day, and fumbled with the tissue while asking us how our day went. He was from Miami, and was wearing an incredible white linen caftan that I need to own — if I happened to ever wear a color other than black. As we stepped out into the masses, it hit me: the sights and scents of my life long ago had caught up with me, and panic rose in my throat. Get out get out get out.
Safely ensconced in a car, heading towards the hills, I watched the bits of my former life reconstitute in front of my eyes behind the window glass. The Korean restaurant I loved. The street corners I stood on, waiting for rides that never came. Fast food chains I hid in. The soundtrack to this ride was a mix of sappy mid-00s ballads, interspersed with show tunes — like some sort of comically dramatic movie. Our driver was Iranian, fresh to L.A., and silent. As “The Sound of Music” faded, we pulled into the parking lot of the 365 market, just next to our house. “What neighborhood is this?” our driver asked. “Silver Lake,” we replied. “It’s one of our favorite places in Los Angeles.” “It is beautiful here,” he murmured, seemingly to himself. “I need to come back to this place.”
Watermelon / pineapple / papaya enzymes / dandelion extract / sparkling + still water.
On our way back into the city, the driver played Natalie Imbruglia and Right Said Fred — it’s funny how this city in particular responds to music. The rhythm of the streets echoed through the songs and cheered me up a bit — and soon, dinner would make me elated.
Osteria Mozza has been on my L.A. restaurant list since 2007 — when I still lived in the city, and after my mother sent me a torn-out profile from Sunset magazine. Mark just watched Nancy Silverton’s episode of Chef’s Table with adoration, so we knew we had to go. We had a late table — 21:30 — but we knew it would be worth every second of anticipation.
Aperol spritz / summer panzanella with market tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, + yogurt / hand-pulled mozzarella with basil / orecchiette with sausage + Swiss chard / gnocchi with duck ragu / grilled beef tagliata with rucola, Parmesan + balsamic / strawberry crespelle with sauteed Albion strawberries + spiced almonds.
We ate like kings. I nearly cried during the mozzarella course — it melted on my tongue, too fresh to describe.
Our dinner compatriots were fascinating, as frequently happens in L.A. On one side, a British couple, mid-40s. On the other, two men — one white, late 30s and the other late-40s and Iranian, perhaps. The British couple made me travel-sick for London, their posh accents dripping over the menu and their comfortable chic outfits. We bonded over the restaurant’s somewhat ridiculous practice of draping a white napkin dramatically across spills you’ve created throughout the meal. “Cloth of shame! Cloth of shame!” the husband chanted. I pointed to mine and said, “I guess we’re both messes.”
At one point during the meal, they chatted about the British show “Made in Chelsea,” something which Mark overheard and quickly asked about once the husband had gone to the restroom. “Oh, he made that show,” the wife stated, almost bored with the statement as it left her mouth. “Oh god, we love trashy British t.v.,” Mark replied. “Not to imply that it’s trashy or anything!” (His adorable Midwestern politeness had kicked in.) “Oh, but it is trashy! We still love it though, don’t we?” She smiled warmly. She said that she and her husband were on a five-week vacation across California, and were staying with friends around the corner. They were headed to Joshua Tree before their trip back to London, and we wished them a wonderful trip.
On our other side, the two men talked in whispers. I originally pegged it as a blind date mis-match, as they didn’t seem comfortable at all with each other — yet there was an air of desperation and attraction underneath the awkwardness. When the younger man left for the restroom, the older man held his head in his hands with his elbows planted on the table, staring into the tablecloth. When the younger man returned, their conversation resumed at a normal volume:
“I have just been approaching people on the street and asking about their faith, and their dedication to Jesus.”
“That’s so wonderful! You’re such a perfect acolyte!”
I was fascinated. What had looked like a train-wreck date turned out to be an evangelical progress meeting of sorts. They left together, with the younger one asking if anything was needing doing at the “Master’s” house? Perhaps I wasn’t entirely wrong about them after all.
We added the Mozza cookbook to our tab, and had Nancy sign it — she had ended her shift at the mozzarella bar, and was camped out at the bar with friends. “To Mark and Nic, Mozza at your home! Love, Nancy.”
Then we whisked ourselves into a car to fall into bed. We’d been awake for nearly 20 hours — and to me it felt like 60. My first day back in L.A. as a new person had ended, and I drifted asleep with a beaming smile on my face.