Driving in LA isn’t the nightmare I thought it’d be (yet!)

English: Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel m...
English: Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains. Français : Le centre ville de Los Angeles et les Monts San Gabriel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are downsides to everything, and in my opinion, there are major flaws with NYC’s wonderful public transit system. On one hand, the 24-hour subway is convenient and relatively inexpensive. There’s also the fact that it’s always crowded, dirty, dangerous, claustrophobic, full of crazies and creepers, and unpleasant. I don’t miss those aspects of the train, but I do miss being able to chill and read while getting from A to B. You can’t do that in LA, a driving city.

I came to southern California earlier this week and haven’t run into too much trouble with traffic or getting places … yet. I also have a ton of excellent iPhone apps (Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps) to guide me through the chaotic freeways and roads of LA. Before returning to California, I anticipated lots of panic episodes on my part, but I’ve been able to avoid freaking out behind the wheel, mainly because you don’t really have the option of fretting when you’re going 65 MPH on the 101, 405, 5, etc. You can be nervous and discontent, but you cannot lose your cool, or, as the hefty gym teacher says in Mean Girls, you will die.

Last night, I drove from Long Beach to downtown LA, where I met up with a friend who lives in the area. I suggested he pick the places since he knows the city, I just had to find a way over there. It took me 35 minutes or so to arrive, and it was only when I got on his street that I began making mistakes. I don’t know whether it’s a good or bad thing that I save my hesitation and self-doubt for the end of my journeys, but that’s how it works pretty much anytime I’m trying to get somewhere. All is well until it comes time to find the exact address. In this case, I drove past the building and had to turn around, and I ended up going in circles on his block two or three times before locating a parking area.

LA is notorious for distributing tickets and what not, so after I parked, I pulled aside the lot worker and asked several times whether I’d done everything I needed to do. I’d given him my five dollars, but would I need to pay more? In NYC, saying something like this is an opening for negative interactions, but I didn’t think this guy would take advantage of my apparent ignorance and vulnerability. I was also desperate to avoid getting towed.

“You can stay here until 2 am,” he said. “Just make sure your car is gone by then, or else.”

Got it.

Pool in my building
Pool in my building

With that, my friend and I walked over to Bar 107, a fun dive bar several blocks away. I was pretty impressed with downtown LA as a whole, and the buildings actually reminded me a lot of New Girl. Maybe that’s where the show is filmed! After drinks, we headed to Bar Ama, a superb tex-mex restaurant run by an amazing chef, according to my friend. Per usual, I stuck with beer and ordered a pork, rice, and beans dish. I loved the food, but more than anything, I loved how attentive and friendly the servers and bartenders were. I made a point to drink tons of water, and they refilled my cup ten times. That would never happen in NYC — everyone is simply too busy to look out for one customer, but I really appreciated it. I was also amused when the bartender started talking to us and jumping into our conversations. It wasn’t rude — just nice and conversational. I’m still readjusting to the friendliness of California, and I think it’s helping me with the transition.

If you read my Saturday blog post, you know I’m still struggling to adapt to my home state again. I keep waiting for the weather to turn on me and freeze up. More than anything, I just miss my friends in NYC. While I was moving into my large LA condo the other day, I sobbed uncontrollably, and it wasn’t because I now have not one but two walk-in closets and more space than I could ever need. It was because I wanted to see my Manhattan crew — Tom, Alex, Jordan, Liz, Caira, and the rest of the PM staff, my unstoppable roommate Jen, my awesome story purveyor buddy Catherine, Sophia, Emma, and the rest of my improv pals, Maggie, Marjorie, Glenn, Frances, Jordan, Sara, Meagan, everyone.

I love each and every one of my East Coast friends, even those I may have cut off at some point. No matter what happened between us, I appreciated having gotten to know you, and I’m sorry if it went sour before I had a chance to say goodbye. It breaks my heart that I departed the city with bad blood with people, but that’s life, right? Just know that I’ve decided to remember the good stuff about everybody I met back East. I know I wasn’t always my best self, and it’s my hope that I can avoid giving in to frustrations and my own shortcomings in LA. It won’t be easy with the driving conditions, but I’ll do it.

I miss you, Tom!
I miss you, Tom!

Anyway, I had a rough time when I moved in a few days ago. I cried as I folded my clothes in my walk-in closet, which should make me happy since I had a shoebox of a room and closet in Manhattan. I didn’t know what to do with all the extra space, so I just wept in it. I cried as I put together my Ikea bed, hung up my photos, and organized my epic bathroom. I cried in the shower, in the kitchen, and in my large living room, which remains empty because I haven’t gotten around to building my Ikea dinner table.

It wasn’t until I turned on my mini DVD player and put Meet the Parents on as background noise that I started feeling better. Maybe all I needed were the voices of others, to have some company as I unpacked my room and got situated in my new place. I listened to the movie as I built my nightstand, coffee table, and chairs, all of which I bought at Ikea. I’m not crazy about building things, but when I’m emotional, I need projects to take my mind off whatever’s bothering me, and when putting together furniture, I need to be focused enough to follow directions and pound away.

I felt accomplished by the end of the day, and I was pretty satisfied with my room. I love that I have enough room in my living space to own a nightstand, and I’m serious when I say it’s the greatest luxury of all to use the bathroom with the door open. Living alone isn’t as terrifying as I anticipated. The apartment is warm and open, and I always fall asleep to something on my mini DVD player. These days, it’s The Newsroom, which usually stays on until 3:00 am, when I wake up and decide to just sleep the rest of the night without it. It’s not healthy to fall asleep to movies, but it’s what makes me most comfortable right now.

Life is coming together over here. I miss my NYC friends like crazy, but I’m finally reaching a point where I can talk about them without my eyes watering and throat tightening. I love you guys, and I promise to visit soon. Think about coming to see me as well. This is the place that’s restoring my sanity, faith in humanity, and sense of calm, and maybe it’ll have a similar effect on you. There are tough days, but they don’t compare to the hardest, most uninspiring days I had in NYC. I’m where I belong, I just wish I could have taken you all with me.

laurw

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One thought on “Driving in LA isn’t the nightmare I thought it’d be (yet!)

  1. I feel the same way about driving down DTLA too and I’ve lived here all my life.
    It was nice hearing that all LA folks aren’t bad.
    Although I makes me not want to visit NY =p

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