“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles,” I will say to my father when he picks me up at LAX tomorrow morning.
“They sure are.” he’ll say.
“No, Dad. It’s a line from Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero.” I’ll think for a second. “It means that the people of Los Angeles are afraid to interact with others. It’s much easier to hold back and stay to yourself then joining the other kids on the playground.”
My Dad will nod with indifferent acknowledgment. He’s just happy to see me.
“Or it means that Angelenos really suck at driving. I’m not sure.”
I want to be Clay coming back to the city. However, instead of decadent holiday parties, apathetic sexual encounters, and coke-induced bloody noses, I’ll be spending time with my father. Though not a man of nihilistic behavior, he is still very much a character in a novel.
I used to carry Less Than Zero on the plane trip back home to New York during the holidays. I’d read it on my flight east and pretend that I related to the questionable protagonist when I really did not- other than the overarching theme of being twenty-something and ambivalent. Then on my flight back west, I’d read it again and remind myself of what land I was about to descend upon.
I’ve written about my romanticizing of Los Angeles many times in the past. About my daydreams for the city I never actually experienced. The visions are becoming more vivid as I get ready to travel back full circle to the beginning of my coming-of-age story. It’s been over two years since I last spent time in Los Angeles. This significance holds unbelievable weight to me and when attempting to convey this heaviness to others, it comes across as endless rambling about a time that only holds value to me. Though my life began improving each minute I fled further away from Los Angeles, it is fair to say she is in my thoughts daily. And like any child that escapes the confines of a dysfunctional parental relationship, I’m still seeking the approval I sought for many years before. The second I step off that plane, I will encourage any semblance of embrace the city may offer me.
I have never spent Christmas in Los Angeles. Christmas is home and Los Angeles was not my home. At times I thought maybe it was. At times I think Austin is. At times I question the idea of home altogether. With one parent in my hometown in Upstate New York, another parent in Los Angeles, the city I became an adult in, and myself in Austin, Texas, it’s fair to say I’m not exactly sure where home is. Since this time of year typically meant attempting to decompress and visions of walking through snow in flip flops because I had nothing better to carry home with me, I spent little time paying attention to the ways Los Angeles celebrated Christmas. I selfishly took the “I’m sitting on the beach on December 20th and it’s 80 degrees” and ran away with it to New York. When the word “Christmas” is mentioned, one does not think of Los Angeles. They think of purple nights in slow motion and visible breath lingering in the air. Or at least I do. However, now I’ll be very well aware of how Los Angeles will be behaving this time of year because we will be in this thing together. I’ll probably notice the string lights on the palm trees and the blow up Santas on perfectly manicured arid front lawns for the very first time.
Besides being keenly aware of my surroundings and watching my fantasies of Los Angeles melt back into realities, I’m not sure what else I’ll be doing for the holidays. Dad and I spoke of volunteering at a downtown homeless shelter on Christmas. Partially to help and partially to experience a life that either one of us, hopefully, will never understand. We also spoke of eating at a restaurant where it all began. Six years ago when he and I drove my Ford Taurus across the country on Route 40, experiencing all the fear and excitement of seeing new landscapes and new beginnings. I’m planning on visiting characters from my previous life chapter. There was even a faint idea that we’d stop unannounced at the the apartment of a former actor acquaintance who was accused of murder. All of these events are to take place in a 56 hour time span. All of them may or may not happen. Maybe I’ll just sit on the beach where I used to dream and think about the journey leading up to this moment.
I left my copy of Less Than Zero back in Los Angeles when I moved to Austin. I’m not sure why considering it is a book I find myself referencing more and more. Maybe it’s because I tried leaving that part of me that had wanted to relate to such a morally ambiguous character. However, when my father takes me to the house from the airport tomorrow, the first thing I will do is dig out the book. I’ll carry it with me through the next two and a half days as I try to locate the girl I abandoned in the city of lost dreams.
And then I will leave her again.
I was near L.A. once for Christmas. I feel fortunate that I was just visiting.
I do so admire your writing style 🙂
Aaah, the love/hate relationship with LA still flourishes. I grew up in Orange County. While there are many elements of So Cal life I miss, Austin for the last decade has been a blessing.
Happy travels Ms. Lauren. And Happy Holidays to you and yours.
This is beautifully written.
I love that you and I are so different in age (I am 42) and yet we have so many similar artistic loves.
Happy Everything. Welcome home – which, I think, is a perfect blend of all three places.
This blew me away. You are so talented!
First of all, I love Less Than Zero. I've read all of his books, and that is probably my favorite. Even though I've never been a privileged kid from LA (native Austinite!) and I've never gone to school far away, I still felt a connection with that book. Maybe it was because I too spent my late teens/early 20's indulging in a lot of self-destructive behavior just to feel something, anything.
As I always say (starting now) home is where your rump rests. Even though I stole it from The Lion King, it's true. Enjoy your holiday hun, and don't worry- your Austin home is ready and waiting to welcome you back with open arms!
I relate to this except about NYC. I connect through movies and music mostly. People politely listen but are probably thinking why do you live in L.A. I am happy to be one of the people who knew you at the beginning of your time in L.A. So happy you followed your heart and are writing from it. Can't wait to see you!
I hope you enjoyed your Christmas visit! I love LA during the holidays. Personally, my favorite day in LA is New Year's Day, as a lot of the regular tourist-y areas are not as busy due to the Rose Bowl.
How did your 56 hours of Los Angeles go? I doubt I will ever see Christmas in Los Angeles. My understanding though is that it is strangely quiet and empty because so many people do what I do and head back home. So few people seem to actually be from here, we all have somewhere else to go.
Did you volunteer? Would love to hear about it.