when you’re a stranger

It was bound to happen. My beloved Los Angeles (as always, pronounced with a spanish accent) has taken a turn for the strange. Summertime in LA. Not exactly backyard barbecues and patio string lights, but… Well, something like this.

ImageMy world can usually be best described as what you might experience underwater. I move in slow motion, always. Sounds are muffled and light is only what you make it. Los Angeles has been like that for me so far, moving in slow motion compared to the rushing, the bustling, the… rushing. I watch it in awe. They don’t stand still long enough to count, but if they did, there are a lot of people here that have somewhere very important to be. Sounds have to be muffled; it is an acquired taste. One of the hardest things for me here has been not responding when someone says hello or asks how I am doing. The friendliest city in the world? No, the asking for moneyist city in the world. And let’s face it, I could probably come up the loser in a contest of whose pockets are the heaviest. So, no. It took me over a month to develop a selectively deaf set of ears, but just like underwater, alone, weightless, hearing that it is time to come in but choosing to ignore it. This is my LA.

ImageI have to admit, I am only starting to learn the language. At first, I was like a college graduate with four years of some language or other under their belts, but never diving into the culture. I was in love with this place; I could even communicate with the locals, at least with a lot of hand gesturing. But the inside jokes, the vague impression that I am in over my head with frequent knowing looks that I will never fit in, the fact that people in California have to say the word “the” before any number. The 101. The 170. In Florida, you take 75 until you get to your exit. Anyway, exuberance is still there but fraught with epiphanies that this place is going to take some serious work before I really understand. But I can do this? When I try to tell myself this in the mirror every morning, there is still a question mark on the end. I have, in fact, never learned a new language, and especially the hidden language of one of the biggest cities in the world.

ImageTo quote Jim Morrison, “People are strange when you’re a stranger,” and I may have moved slightly past wall flower status, but not by much. Faces coming out of the rain would be of no surprise right now, as everything seems to be coming at me at bullet train speed. I swear the buildings downtown have grown several stories, and not bedtime ones. I felt like the angels of the city were watching over me for some time and walked down any street at any time of day or night that I wanted to until someone angrily reigned me in and demanded that I realize right this second that I am not in Florida anymore, and all this talk of gangs isn’t just for the entertainment factor on television. Even crossing the streets can take ten minutes until the motorcycles, hybrid cars, buses, buses and then some more busses pass. Who wouldn’t see faces coming out of the rain sometimes?

ImageSo I am new to this city all over again, maybe to the real city, the one where you can’t drive from one side to the other without making a pit stop for water and probably gas. Venice Beach, I love you. The skyline at night, while somehow not as impressive to me as the Dallas skyline, is breath taking. The canyons shouldn’t be missed by anyone, especially if you can manage to ride a horse in/up/down one. I can’t help but smile at the absurdity, the surreal daydream of Hollywood. And the wall from the cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8″ can only be found in LA. I’m not knocking it, I just need to catch my breath before I jump back in and start running alongside all the important people with important places to go. Before I start swimming the depths of what still remains largely unknown, where people speak as if in secret code I haven’t learned.

And I always have Little Tokyo. And origami birds. Life might be strange, but life is also good.