Last Thursday night, after a long day at the office, I made my way to the airport and grabbed a Los Angeles bound flight. A close friend from college was in the midst of a crisis. And though work was in overdrive and I had plenty of holiday-related tasks to tend to, off I went for a quick 3-day visit.
Los Angeles has always felt like a foreign land to me. My sense of direction is off and I’m repeatedly distracted by the curious way people present themselves. More importantly, I feel like an outsider in LA. I can strut through Bergdorf’s on 5th Avenue like I own the place. But at the bustling Barney’s just off Rodeo, I cower in the corner by a display of expensive French fragrances and hide from the masses.
“That guy looks like such a tool,” I mumbled as I picked at the cheese plate and nodded toward the DJ spinning music.
We were seated in the bar of a West Hollywood restaurant and the scene was defined by fur vests, tight leather pants and Louboutin stilettos. Even the men had a specific look, relying on untucked button-down shirts with textures and patterns not found on the east coast. It was like Rachel Zoe had styled the entire city. Literally.
“Who?” my friend asked.
Having been in LA for over a decade, she was completely immune to her surroundings. The guy ten feet to our right, a guy who was donning a tilted newsboy cap indoors while two chrome wallet-chains dangled off the hip of his skinny jeans, was just another zebra in her animal kingdom.
Over the course of my visit, my cloak of east coast sarcasm eventually melted away. I stopped scoffing at the population responsible for making Ed Hardy a household name. By the end of day two, I no longer flinched at the $100,000+ cars dominating the roadways. Suddenly I was eating fermented probiotic vegetables and purchasing crystals to cleanse my chakra.
“People are curiously friendly out here,” I said as we left a Beverly Hills boutique.
“You’re just used to the east coast where making eye contact with strangers is considered rude.”
It was refreshing to have a stranger invite me to pet her pedicured pooch, an offer triggered by my quiet cooing. It was nice knowing shopkeepers were genuinely pleased to help you, even if you didn’t make a purchase. And it almost seemed normal to invite a solo diner to pull his table next to ours at brunch on Sunday.
“I don’t want to intrude,” he said with a wave of his hand. “You two seem to be having plenty of fun without me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” my friend and I said as we each grabbed a corner of his table and dragged it in our direction.
Later Sunday evening, I sat down on the floor of my friend’s condo and started packing my belongings. I refolded unworn shirts, tucked small items within my sneakers, and carefully shielded my tan leather jacket from the dirty soles of my black leather pumps.
“I wish you were staying,” my friend said as she sat down on the nearby sofa, a half-empty bottle of Kombucha in her right hand.
I stood up, pressed down on the top of my suitcase and zipped it closed. The quiet hum of Tibetan monk chants echoed through the condo. On the end-table I noticed the rose quartz and pyrite crystals I had bought the previous evening, crystals my friend had blessed on her altar. I set my suitcase to the side, sat down next to her on the sofa and leaned back into the pillows.
“You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this but me too.”