Juliana Writes...

Living with the best of intentions

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seasons In Los Angeles: A Study of a Love/Hate Relationship

I think I figured out my beef with LA in the summer. During every other season I feel so much love for this city; in the fall, when the air finally starts to get a little bit crisp and trees are tinged with yellow and orange, it seems like anything is possible. The nights are cool and long, the days are still a little bit warm, and the light seems to be golden all the time making the towering buildings glow, an urban affluence of stimulation driven by the rhythm of a thousand the heeled booties. I find myself lingering in coffee shops longer, walking more, craving the adventure of the city: exciting restaurants, museums, workshops, cocktails infused with things like cardamom and rutabaga!  I suddenly develop a need to bake and hike and hand-write letters to old friends.  It’s a wonderful time to live in Los Angeles.

Winter carries this good vibration into a slightly less golden version of itself. We're then wear our fluffy down coats anytime it's less than 65 degrees outside (which I'll never stop thinking is hilarious), and cocktails are instead being infused with cinnamon and mixed with eggnog but still, the city is alive and the tourists are either at Disneyland or Universal Studios so we mostly have the place to ourselves. There is shopping to do and crafts to make and gatherings to be held in bars and restaurants with lofty ceilings and tables made out of reclaimed wood. The city is buzzing and it's still occasionally 75 degrees outside.

And through the winter, all the way into the spring is when I really rediscover my love for my chosen home because that is when it starts to rain.  Not everyday, not even in long, Oregon-like streaks, just a day or two here and there a couple of times a month.

Let me tell you something about Los Angeles in the rain. It is pure magic. It is like a portal through time and space; something about those old buildings and the circus of umbrellas and the way the rain can turn everything into varying shades of grey – suddenly it’s 1941 and I’m scurrying from awning to awning, dodging raindrops with Bogart and Sinatra and Hepburn (Katherine, that is), ducking into the nearest diner for sanctuary and a hot cup of joe.  Rain in LA makes me look at people differently, wonder what their story is, how they arrived here, what are they searching for?  It makes the air smell cleaner, like it might have back in the day.  It makes morning coffee so peaceful and cooking dinner so much fun.  It makes inspiration easy.  It makes the roar of people’s voices hush, so that the sounds of the rain and the city become consistent with my heartbeat.  It is, I repeat, pure magic.

Unless you’re driving on the freeway, then it’s chaos and destruction and definitely try not to do it if you can help it.

Now, the problem with LA and me in the summertime stems from my summers growing up in Oregon, which were like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  In this city – the city that as soon as I learned that someday I would move away from home I knew I wanted to live in, the city that surprises and enchants and excites me ¾ of the year, the city that offers me boundless opportunity and inspiration – in this city summer is like something out of a Spike Lee movie.  It’s grungy and crowded and I am constantly at least a little bit uncomfortable (also fascinated and undeniably impressed…I’m not knocking Mr. Lee here, but if we’re choosing directors for our lives I’m definitely more of a Billy Wilder/Rob Reiner girl).  The heat waves in LA make everyone a wee bit cranky and everything a little bit sticky, and even when you attempt to escape to the beach or a pool or a park you find yourself shoulder to shoulder with an army of tourists and city-dwellers that had the same idea.  The buildings and pavement do not hold any mystery or whisper of another era, they mostly seem to intensify the sun’s blistering rays, bouncing them back at you with a hostility you’re not sure you deserve. 

Summer, to me, is meant to be spent in the country.  It’s meant for big backyards and porches, fields, rivers, and lakes.  It’s meant for scenery that absorbs and softens the heat, and for the sound of crickets, and for stars.  So. Many. Stars.  Growing up in small-town-Oregon built the meaning of quintessential summer into my bones and it’s the hardest part about living in Los Angeles for me.  Every year I gripe and whine about the heat and the cement.  I scroll grumpily through my Facebook feed, zipping past photos of boats and greenery and rope swings that dangle over water.  I text my parents and brother woeful longings to be home with them – I miss my family every single day, but I miss them the most in the summer.  

This is summertime in Oregon:

Wheat fields and blue skies and green trees.

My childhood home and life viewed from a hammock...as it should be.

Sunset not produced by smog (though those are pretty darn beautiful).

My parents' beautiful backyard...

...and my adorable mother BBQing in it.

Also there are wildflowers.  Fields and fields of wildflowers.


Perhaps I’m not doing the right activities to find the magic of the season in LA; I admit I don’t try very hard.  I hardly leave the house due to the crowds and the heat, I feel uninspired to cook, one of my favorite things to do (because who would want to make more heat?), and most of the pastimes that I would like to regularly partake in to lift my mood would leave us penniless come fall. 

Next year I will begin researching and listing sometime around April and I will have a good summer in LA.  I will find fun, inexpensive events and discover a way to eat oysters and tacos and drink rosé everyday.  I will seek out obscure beaches unknown to the crowds and I will plan a camping trip amongst the trees.  I will spend big on a few events – a concert or food festival or something – and I will read all the books on my summer reading list and wear big sunhats with ribbons on them.  I will roam the city, spotting celebrities and appreciating the cornucopia of culture that I am surrounded by.

I will also, apparently, I have won the lottery and maybe have become a different person. 

Just kidding.  Sorry, it’s hot outside and it’s making me cranky.  I just keep repeating to myself, “it’s almost fall, it’s almost fall, it’s almost fall…”

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