We arrived in California last Thursday famished. So we wasted no time in having a very late lunch at a California institution, the In -n- Out Burger where you can enjoy the freshest meat to come between two pieces of bread for $1.95. And that’s with cheese!
Gorging on grilled beef and fried potatoes was followed by a shade shopping trip to Pasadena where Anna and I tried out the local sunwear fashions.
We stayed in downtown Los Angeles along with the two dozen other individuals who collect their mail here. Downtown LA is like no other city I have ever seen. It’s quiet. It’s clean. It’s pretty. And there’s nothing going on here. People come here to work, and then go home to the beach or mountains. And can you blame them? There’s natural beauty in every direction.
But I found myself charmed by the stillness of this city. I like quiet. I know the action is in the surrounding burbs, but there’s something alluring about sitting in the eye of the storm. Here are some cityscape shots Anna took from the back seat of her carseat–my little Anna Leibovitz.
What I discovered on this trip was that LA is quite the contemporary art hub. For the two dozen people who hang in downtown, there is plenty of fantastic modern eye candy to behold.
This interpretive hunk of junk stood outside MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from the four-year-old Walt Disney Concert Hall.
I am a huge Frank Gehry fan. I first became familiar with his work when he designed the Experience Music Project, which was built while Mike and I lived in Seattle. His designs are flirty, simple, and confident. Sadly, Anna was a little freaked out by the unconventional designs and narrow hallways when I dragged her on a free, self-guided tour of the Disney concert hall. Always a sensitive kid, Anna kept saying the concert hall was “spooky,” and asked repeatedly when we would leave. So I got the truncated tour and hope to go back on my own and explore the concert hall more closely. I never got to see the wooden pipe organ, which always reminded me of a bunch of french fries. Perhaps Mr. Gehry was inspired by the In -n- Out burger?
Woven throughout the exterior of the concert hall were several gardens overlooking LA. The gardens included this lovely floral sculpture filled with ice-cold water, which felt incredibly refreshing given that it was about 90 degrees that day (and every day during our visit). The garden was the only place where Anna didn’t beg to flee.
During our five days in the Golden State, we did escape downtown to cooler climes. We hit Santa Monica twice over the weekend, once to see some college friends and the other time to hear my cousin perform music at an Irish pub, which served as his lab while he researched a master’s degree in Irish music. What a gig!
You can’t visit California and not spend some time at the beach. The beach culture here is as diverse as the neighborhoods of New York City. Venice Beach feels different than Santa Monica, which feels different from Malibu. We were here during a late spring hot spell, which meant everyone, natives and tourists, wanted to hug the coast. The beach was very crowded, so we escaped every day to the condo pool, which shared a whimsical geometry with the Disney concert hall.
My last trip to the California coast was April 2002, when, once again, I followed Mike out on one of his work-related trips to enjoy some fun in the sun. On that trip, I took surf lessons at Surf Diva. After the surf lessons, I told Mike I was ready to have a baby. True story.
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Six years later, I’m playing with my kid on a beach not far from where I learned how to surf, wondering the same thing I wondered when I was here the last time: Could I live here? Would I be happy? Why do I feel so at ease out here? Since college, I have flirted with the idea of moving to California, though the fantasy was always San Francisco, not Los Ange
les. I’m not SoCal. I’m NoCal.
Now, Mike works for an LA-based company. The sun shines all the time. A quiet, art-loving city is sandwiched between beautiful mountains and a beautiful ocean. I loved waking up to the mountains every morning. I loved their sense of protection, how they separated me from East Coast angst. California attracts dreamers because it’s safe to dream out here. Anna, a shy kid, readily embraced the Pacific, more so than when she last played in it off the coast of Isabela. I don’t know Los Angeles well enough yet, but I’m willing to go on another date to find out.