as the plane gets closer, hills rise up, little clouds clinging to the tips, with residential scatterings around their bases.
then the basin opens up and it's row after row, square after square of people and studios and houses and cars.
so much time spent in cars, which everyone who lives there seems to have accepted. new york conversations center around apartments and subway lines. l.a. conversations are about highways and houses.
this is the one my friend celeste lives in. it's an apartment, comprising a quarter of this building, really, but by new york standards, that's a house
what struck me is how similar the l.a. city experience is to driving down colfax in denver.
the streets are wide, buildings are generally not taller than 3 stories, and the neighborhoods shift startlingly between decidedly ethnic and decidedly ritzy. on the way to celeste's place from the airport we stopped at van's, one of l.a.'s big supermarket chains. i'd nearly forgotten what it was like to get all your shopping done in one place. or to buy more groceries than you can physically carry for 4 blocks.
palm trees palm trees palm trees..
immediately after flying in, celeste, her roommate carla, and i got into costume and drove up to their alma mater, CalArts, for the annual halloween party. a halloween with a bunch of art students at the school 'LacArts' was based on in 'six feet under?' awesome. and the party certainly lived up to expectations. it was filled with russels and jimmys and anitas. anyway, crazyness. celeste and carla kept saying how lame it was, and how it's usually much much better, but i had nothing to compare it to. i hadn't been to a party this big in probably 6 years. the costumes were really great - art students, you know. i wish i had brought my camera. a popular costume at the party were 'team zissou' members - of which there were about 8 or 9. i liked the idea, so i stole it for sunday's costume party.
on saturday we drove to santa barbara to visit my genius friend adrienne, who was in the midst of heavy research for her doctoral dissertation on the legendary halloween celebrations on isla vista. adrienne is one of my closest friends from junior high, and the star of 'what lies below
.' we had a lovely dinner, during which she gave us the full history of the isla vista halloween celebration, then took us on a litle walking tour around the shopping district where celeste and i could shop for costume items. the two main costume shops were packed with college students, with lines extending down their respective blocks.
adrienne asked me to take pictues of the line for her paper, but i stupidly did not think to take any pictures of us
, which is typical of me. i'll get a million shots of a microscopic rock on the beach and not one of the people i care about or actually came to see. maybe i prefer the memory?
the next day i smartly handed the camera over to my friend sonya's gorgeous child, latreal, who's acting career is quickly eclipsing all of ours, having landed a national saturn commercial earlier this year. celeste surprised me at brunch by inviting just about everyone from UF who now lives in l.a.. it was great seeing them again and talking with them, finding out what their lives are like out there, how much acting work they're getting, how they survive, and most importantly, if they like
(at left is celeste, latreal, and sonya at brunch.) the life of an l.a. actor is much different. in new york you audition and audition and hope to get a showcase, which might get you an agent, who might get you another showcase or regional production. what you make doing these things will either be a) nothing, or b) just barely enough to scrape by. eventually you might land on or off broadway, but there are only a handful of those productions each year to hope to be cast in.
(this is stephen, who was in my grad class at uf.) in l.a. you have the vast (desolate, depending on your perspective) landscape of tv and film to troll for employment - and with an ever expanding number of channels, hours to fill, and commercials to punctuate those hours, there's just a lot more work to be found. now, holding up a tube of toothpaste is hardly artistically comparable to acting in an original play in nyc, but holding up a tube and saying no lines at all has the potential to support a career for half a year, if not more. so let me rephrase: there's a lot more paying
work to be found.
(this is kevin, who was in a brilliant ad for netzero, featured in this slate article
.) in addition, the cost of living is lower. you have to deal with the expenses of having a car - gas, insurance, repairs, sure - but it's offset by the substantially lower rent; lower rent that also comes with much much more space. and a lawn.
this is dajuan, who i also went to UF with, and who i went through a lot of gay growing pains with. it's great to see him doing well, and seeming so much himself.
the whole affair was celeste's bid to seduce me into moving to l.a...
we spent the rest of the day driving around the city, looking at the various neighborhoods, walking in and out of fun shops to finish up our costumes. i found excellent light blue pants for my zissou costume at a thrift store on melrose. that night celeste, her new awesome husband chad, carla, and carla's friend george and i all got ready and headed off to a giant party in some warehouse. the pic is about as fuzzy as my memory of the evening.. that's chad as 'disco stu.' i didn't get to see much of chad at first because he was working long days on the set of 'gray's anatomy' as a featured doctor/extra.
monday. brunch. driving. sightseeing.
i decided to take a jog around celeste's neighborhood. several miles away was the six feet under house, which i knew i had to see. it's in the middle of a nice, predominantly hispanic residential neighborhood. it was clear that this was just a residence, and that people do live there, and judging by the car in the driveway, they were home. as i lurked around, snapping pics, a woman came out and took out the trash. she didn't say anything. must be used to this.
playing dead in the walkway.
now, if you've watched the final episode as many times as i have, you'll know that there is a certain important driving sequence at the end. on my jog back to celeste's, it was cool to see the exit claire takes to get on highway 10, just a few block from 'their' house. i love when shows are geographically correct.
on my jog i also got to see the 'real l.a.'
that evening: a party at dajuan's house and the west hollywood parade. dajuan and his friends had dressed up as the desperate housewives. dajuan was of course alfre woodard, though his costume could also pass for whitney or oprah. celeste, chad, carla and i got back into costume, but after sunday night, it was just too much. we only stayed an hour. the parade was 250 thousand people in the street in costumes - it was like the pearl street mall crawl back home (the way it was before it became sanitized for familes and then dissolved), except multiplied 250 times. i'd love to do it again, but get there early, grab a table at a street cafe and watch the people go by.
tuesday. venice beach with celeste and chad.
thank you both for being such amazing hosts.
i have the blogosphere to thank for my friendship with john dolan, who took me out tuesday night to la's 'beige,' which is apparently just like ny's beige - except we were going on the day after halloween, and the swanky place was pretty empty owing to a city-wide hangover. i did however meet mr. dolan's blonde, gorgeous, talented roommate and fell instantly in love. alas it was not meant to be. it was really great seeing john, though.
wednesday. on the plane. heading back. my camera battery died at the beach, so i couldn't take pictures of the glittering new york skyline as we landed at 9pm. it was stunning, but added to the strange melancholy i felt the entire flight. was
i going home? what is home anymore? how have i become so complacent in my life? would a cross country move revitalize my creative juices? my ambition?
something died in me this year and i'm not entirely sure what did it. a lot of it has to do with nearly killing myself to produce a play, see it become a success and then see little of that success myself. i wonder if i never dreamed big enough as a kid. i only ever wanted to move to new york, to work in theatre. i never pushed for more, and once i got those things, once i had moved here (which once seemed impossible) went equity and produced plays - what next? i need new, bigger, seemingly impossible goals or i will dissolve. then there's also the inescapable pang of age, a weight that only gets heavier with time. as winter approaches, i know i need the sun.