The rain started as soon as my plane touched down in Los Angeles. As soon as I stepped out of the sliding glass doors and onto the sidewalk under DELTA – ARRIVALS, everything was instantly familiar. I had never been to LA but had been to San Diego twice and the smell was the same, the palm trees, the eerily warm weather in the middle of a cold season, the ever-present feeling of spring where it doesn’t belong. My heart lurched in my chest and I wanted to throw the bags off my shoulders, slamming my laptop to the ground and run around waving my arms wildly. WARMTH! HERE I AM! COME TO MAMA.
Tom pulled up but not before I mistakenly waved happily at some other man who I thought was Tom. I got nothing but a weird look and when I realized it was just a look-alike, I played dumb, drifting my eyes to another place pretending that it had not been me excitedly jumping up and down and shouting HI TOM to a complete stranger. When Tom DID pull up, I squinted really hard to make sure it was really him so as not to make a total ass out of myself TWICE. This time, I was correct and he helped me dump my suitcase into the trunk but not before hugging me fiercely.
“WELCOME TO LA!”
“See that guy over there?”
“I thought he was you so I just spent a few seconds jumping up and down and waving to him.”
“Yes. Get in the car. Quick. AND DRIVE.”
Tom’s apartment is divine, in the heart of Korea Town and a few blocks away from Thai Town, my most favorite place on Planet Earth besides Target. I tried to be polite about keeping my things out of Tom’s way but eventually gave up when I realized he was family and couldn’t really do anything to stop me. Pretty soon, his apartment was full of make up, three kinds of moisturizers and four pairs of shoes. I began contemplating ways to move in permanently, disguising my conspiracy in the form of compliments.
“LOOK AT ALL THAT CLOSET SPACE!”
Translation: BWA HA HA! PERFECT SHELVING FOR MY SHOES!
On Friday, Tom and I met up with our lovely friend, Teresa, a Long Island transplant who’s recently made her way to LA. We spent the afternoon at the Getty Center, taking in some art and some cloudy ocean views. Emotionally, she and I connect easily and she’s one of those rare people that make me feel like no time has passed when I finally speak to her after months of no communication. We pick up right where we left off and it’s light and hilarious and perfect. Also, I got lots of Catholic church gossip. LOTS.
My trip was punctuated by visits with familiar faces, some intentional, some not. While seeing “Milk” one evening, we realized that a few rows in front of us sat a good friend from college in Buffalo. We freaked out accordingly and hugged and exchanged hellos and phone numbers until the movie started and then I forgot all about him and spent approximately 1/3 of the entire film CRYING MY EYES OUT.
We grabbed a late night cup of tea with my friend Dan, a screenwriter who moved to LA five years ago and got kicked in the ass by it. You can see the struggle on his face, the despair threatening to overtake him, the way that LA eats you up and spits you out. He’s on his way to achieving success, that much I know, but I related so well to his journey, the way that your naive heart tells you it will all be so easy and you show up and realize it isn’t, at all.
And here is the thing about Los Angeles: the despair is palpable. I can SMELL IT. Everyone is involved in the entertainment industry, EVERYONE and they are all clamoring to get ahead, afraid of failing, afraid of getting old, afraid of getting fat. It was evident everywhere I went, from the rail thin soccer moms huffing and puffing up the Santa Monica steps to the 34 year old waitress wearing knee socks and pigtails, in deeper denial than I thought ever possible.
New York is full of actors and writers, sure but only if you’re hanging out in actor-infested pockets. They do spread out and paw their way through the masses but they are not the dominate culture. There are bankers and stockbrokers racing about, fashion designers as well. It’s not just actors that want to get ahead, it’s EVERYBODY. New York just moves and moves and moves. Los Angeles just threatens to swallow you whole and spit you out on the beach wondering what the fuck just happened.
Even though we don’t have a MYSPACE?
So, there’s that. I suppose what I’m saying is: in Los Angeles, it felt harder to find the momentum. Pursuing an acting career felt even more daunting and exhausting. Getting in the car and sitting in traffic every time you go to an audition? YIKES. I feel like I would probably give up and get a tan whereas in New York, I HAVE TO KEEP GOING because the feeling of getting lost is so much more intense. In Los Angeles, I feel like people are so mellow that they wake up and they’re 45 years old and bartending like, “Huh. How did this happen? Why did I move here again?”
On the other hand, Tom moved to LA despite me clinging to his legs like a toddler and screaming at him not to and he is doing remarkably well. I suppose the difference between Tom Who Moved To LA Two Years Ago and Tom Right Now is that this Tom is happy. He is more secure. He knows his way around. He has a strong circle of friends. He is making progress. Nothing made me happier than to see that.
It is hard for your best friend in the whole world to pack up everything and move 3,000 miles away. It is harder still for you to bite your tongue and tell him not to go and please stay because how do you tell someone that living every day without them nearby is like missing a limb? Like you are never able to be yourself because so much of you is wrapped up in that person and their life and their sense of humor and the way they naturally just complete you?
Visiting Tom isn’t like visiting another friend. It never gets awkward or feels obligatory in any way. It isn’t hard to find activities to do or restaurants to go to and conversation eases in and out of silence without ever being forced. Laughing until we can’t breathe about some joke about a fish that we don’t even understand. Him drinking tea, me sipping coffee, sharing a croissant on our way back from a jog. Time spent with Tom is comfortable, hilarious and always full of the purest joy because he brings me back to a place in my childhood when it was me and him against the world.
Oh no, I never ever wanted him to go to LA, never in million years. But toddler temper tantrum aside, I let him go because if Tom is one thing, it is headstrong. He was focused, he knew what he wanted and he went for it and all I could do was sit on the East Coast and cheer him on, regardless of the choices he made and the way I felt about them. It’s one thing to sit on the opposite side of the country and hear about his day. It’s quite another to be right next to him and live it. It was such an odd sensation: oh! This is your life! This is what you see every day! These are the things you do! HOW STRANGE.
Yet how awesome that I could be part of it, if only for five short days.
I will definitely be going to Los Angeles on a regular basis, particularly when the winds in New York pick up and the snow won’t stop falling and I want to kill everyone on the subway with my bare hands. I am certain that I made the right choice moving to New York City as it seems to suit me like a second skin. However, I am also certain that Tom made the right choice moving to Los Angeles. Back and forth for how ever long it takes, I will make it a priority to be a part of his journey because I’m not sure how to go on without having him in my life, my cousin and best friend who I have known since he was born.