Los Angeles is spread out like a handful of small towns connected with highways, each town with its own character and inhabitants. Downtown is downright foreign to Westsiders. The buzzing crowd at Bottega Louie -- families with babies, hipsters, moms buying their children's breakfast croissants, elegant women buying pink boxes of colorful macarons -- feels nothing like Los Angeles. They're spilling out onto the dark street. A lone light in the darkness, like a Hopper diner. "This feels like Paris," I said to my Parisian friend. "It feels like a kitchen" he said. "Buy the pain de mie for your children for breakfast, spread it with honey" he said as we looked through the glass of the bakery counter. There is jostling and an hour wait for a table, but we drink martinis with a twist and I listen to other people's conversations and covet their paper flutes of portobello mushroom fries. KB is here in here animal print shirt, drinking gin & tonic. She threatened to take the Metro here but didn't, despite my praising her pioneering spirit (how strange that public transport feels so unknown to us).
|flowers I liked at Bottega Louie|
A man begging outside is wearing a Giants shirt. He has a few dimes in his plastic cup. I say, "look after yourself" as I always do, wishing, in fact, I could be more direct, that I could ask him about his addiction and why he's sitting on a street corner on a Saturday night with a cup full of change in the dark, just a few feet from the light and laughter and glitzy-boxed sweetmeats. But I don't.
On the way back I eschew the freeway for 8th Street and then 6th Street, through Koreatown and Mid-Wilshire, past karaoke bars and barbecue restaurants, airline ads and beauty shops. I wonder about all the places there are to visit and whether there will be time to see everything in one lifetime.
And back home there are owls and swooping hawks and white plum blossom.
I could make a case for Los Angeles being a microcosm of the world, but you could probably make that case for anything. It's not what you think, this city. It's never what you think it is. Once you think you've got it down, it changes, something else is revealed.
A new friend and I shared eggs and coffee this morning on Little Santa Monica Boulevard. Both of us are English transplants, she to Australia, me to Los Angeles. "I feel the landscape of England in my bones" she says. "I don't feel that way about the outback." It is a quintessentially English thing, feeling the country in your bones, or believing a part of you to be woven into the backbone of England. I'd love to know whether Americans feel this way...I'm not sure it's been expressed before that way. There is something about walking in the downs of the Chilterns that reminds you of the chalky remains of people who have come before and over whom lays a carpet of green, English grass. Walking in the mountains and the canyons here, beneath the ancient evergreen oak trees, listening the hawks, there isn't a sense of it being peopled. Unlike England, it isn't well-trodden, except by deer and finches and the owls that come out at twilight when the canyon gets cold.
I've been thinking a lot about magic and what it means to me. Not magic in the conjuror sense of the word, but everyday magic, the stories we tell ourselves to make things better or more special or to keep us sparkling. My favorite book is this one:
It's about ley lines and dowsing and herbal remedies and alchemy, and of course Druidry. It's also about stemming homesickness. Just a tiny bit.