If I’ve done my math correctly, 8 years ago at the time of this writing I was about two hours south of Redding, CA on my way to Los Angeles for the next big phase of my adult life. I was nervous, nauseated, sad and cramped by the amount of stuff I had somehow managed to fit in to my VW Fox (or as I will always refer to it as, “The Gay Jetta.”). But the time had come and as hard a decision as it was to leave Seattle and the friends that I’d made there (including the guys who lived with me at the Haunted House), Los Angeles was where the acting was.
I barely ate anything that day. I had a half-full bottle of some sort of doctor prescribed tranqulizers I had picked up earlier in the year because I was trying to figure out my mood swings, but I had resolved to just try and get to California under my own power. Clenching my jaw the whole way, if need be.
The day rolled on, it was August in California so it was HOT with a capital everything and of all of the cd’s I had kept handy to play on my 8 year old Sony CD Boombox, Hepcat’s “Push ‘n’ Shove” was the only one I really remember listening to. And now I can’t remember if I ever told Alex D. that during the period of time where we regularly crossed paths, but I think he’d get a kick out of it.
I hit Magic Mountain about 3 or so, and the traffic began to thicken. I had visited Los Angeles a few times before, and wasn’t really a huge fan (which sort of begs the question “why did you move, again?”), and had NEVER actually driven around Los Angeles, so had my jaw not been clenched before, it sure as shit was then. My palms were sweaty, and in the tried-and-true way 24-y.o. me handled things, I began to freak out. But there was no turning back now!
When I got to Burbank, the 5 seemed like a parking lot. It was smoggy and there was a smell in the air that I couldn’t quite place (and I don’t smell it anymore, but I’m SURE it’s there), but I spotted an Ikea, and in my silly little way I knew things were going to be ok. According to the map my friend only lived about 10 miles away, so I was almost there. But not almost enough.
Sidebar: if you’ve never driven in Southern California traffic, it’s a singular experience. I understand why my mother is so reticent to visit.
So I eventually get to yet ANOTHER interchange of freeways, met with a lot of honking as I awkwardly change lanes to make it in time and finally reach my destination in the historic Highland Park neighborhood of LA. Nestled between downtown and Pasadena, it’s rich in awesome old houses and a very large hispanic community, as well as a number of one way streets and hills and double-backs. Beautiful, labrynthine and completely not what I was prepared for. My friend lived at the end of a cul-de-sac, and I had just taken it as a given that she was going to be home when I got there.
This is me, being wrong.
So after a lot of back and forthing about what to do, including unloading my car, putting the contents on her porch and then re-loading it back into the car I try to find a pay phone and that proves to be WAAAAY harder than I thought, to say nothing of the fact that while I don’t particularly feel threatened nor do I feel welcomed. And of course my friend expected me to get there later, and it’s all a wacky misunderstanding and blah blah blah, but it still takes her another half hour to get home to let me in. And at this point I’m a sweaty nervous wreck so god bless her for letting me in the house.
We get dinner somewhere, look out her HUGE window overlooking Figueroa and the Highland 3 movie theatre and watch “Freaks and Geeks,” and I think somewhere around 9 or 10 at night by body decides it has had enough for one day and I write one quick journal entry (because I resolve that I’m going to keep a detailed journal about my time in Los Angeles. Sure, why not.) wherein I lay out the supplies needed for the trip, including 2 half eaten chicken sandwiches and 4 tupperware bins among other things and at the end of which I VEHENTLY declare that “Los Angeles will NEVER be home.”
Well, it’s 8 years on, and there have been a number of ups and downs which I may or may not elaborate on over the next week in a checklist format, and there have been numerous times that I’ve wanted to give up the ghost and go running back home to Albuquerque with my tail between my legs, but for better or worse that urge has completely dissipated in the past 7 months. My resolve is stronger, things are finally beginning to take off in small ways, and I realize that if I’m to make this place work for me, I have to work it. YEAH! WORK IT!!!!
I had someone tell me at rehearsal for the first play I did here (May, 2002) that either you make it in your first month or it takes 10 years. If I’m on the ten year track, I’m doing pretty damn good.
So here’s to however many more years here, with new focus, a strong support base and limitless opportunity.