Living the dream in L.A.
According to the Wikipedia entry that I just made up, most people wait until they have a secure job and housing before giving up a secure job and housing.
I am not “most people.”
Well, to be honest, I am no longer most people. For the first three and half decades of my life, I toed the line, lived a decent life and did as my parents expected as we hopped from state to state and city to city.
However, there was a constant whisper in my head and nagging in my heart to return to the city of my birth: Los Angeles. I was born at UCLA Medical Center, spent the first ten years of my life within two hours of Disneyland and then was whisked away by the powers that be.
Now, the power that be is me.
The major shift in power began in 2006 when I left America to teach English in central China for a year. Five years later, I returned to find the U.S. – especially California – in the middle of a recession. My plan of immediately moving to Los Angeles was put on hold as I found work in Northern California near family.
I informed my family and boss that Davis was a temporary stop – neither really wanted to believe me. As the economy strengthened, I set an exit date: Aug. 29, 2014. I scoured the Internet for possible jobs, spent hours filling out online applications and waited for responses.
The rejections poured in slow and steady: Thanks but we found someone who suits our needs better. It was like junior high all over again. Actually, worse. At least in junior high people got to experience my personality in person before dismissing me.
The interwebs are a cold place.
While companies turned me down, I found comfort – and a bed in a spare room – with friends. My handful of Southern California friends counted down the days of my arrival and celebrated it with me.
My first night in town – Sept. 1, 2014 – I laid out my plan of attack for finding work and then an apartment of my own. My friends nixed the idea and said I should take a break from work, check out the city, rest up and then, whenever I wanted to, to start the search. (Since two of these friends giving the advice are also my “landlords” I was obligated to take it.)
And – if I do say so myself – it is my best work at following orders to date.
I have eaten amazing food, walked famed beaches, visited historic places and – the most L.A. experience of all – spied my favorite actor filming a scene.
However, before first-night awesomeness ensued, my friends had to make sure wherever we were headed had received a proper rating on Yelp. Most of my Northern California buddies just pick a type of food and then narrow it down between two favorites.
Apparently, the first step to living in L.A. is getting the proper apps for my phone. (Let’s not even get into the fact that my phone is not the right kind of smartphone.)
First night in town, dinner is at Grill ‘Em All in Alhambra (4 1/2 stars, 1,152 reviews). Before it was a burger joint, it was a food truck – and not just any food truck but a winner of The Great Food Truck Race food truck.
The burgers have heavy metal music related names and descriptions just as cryptic. But once my classic rock loving brain got past the décor and loud music – which meant finding a table outside – the food was head-bang worthy.
I enjoyed, no, I enjoyed the Pig Champion: a burger topped with Canadian bacon, Champagne hollandaise, a fried egg and fresh greens.
One friend had the Behemoth, which is a barbeque bacon cheeseburger with grilled cheese sandwiches for a bun. A couple friends went with the Witte (pronounced Wit-E), a burger with cream cheese, deep-fried bacon, grilled onions, sriracha and malt vinegar aioli. Rave reviews all around.
The patio area featured outstanding outdoor art mosaics and fountain. Like many L.A. eateries, the ambiance is part of the meal. As our meals somewhat settled and the sun slunked down behind the buildings, it was time to walk off the burger.
OK, more accurately, it was time to walk to dessert about 100 yards away at Blockheads Shavery (4 stars, 285 reviews). It’s like a Hawaiian shave ice but it has a milk-base and comes in exotic – black sesame – and traditional – strawberry – flavors.
It was a great first night in my new home, but it didn’t really feel like home.
During the past eight years, I had visited friends in SoCal so often that this first night felt like vacation. I have to keep reminding myself that I get to stay now, that I don’t have to drive six hours north in a couple of days, that this is real, that I am home.
And most people would agree that’s a good place to be.