9.11.2008

I Left My Heart in South Central

I went down to LoDo for the first time in ages (a.k.a. LOwerDOwntown, or Downtown Denver) and something was very, very wrong.

It wasn't the remnants of the DNC floating around, old posters advertising lofts for high rent or red, white and blue ribbons. It wasn't the warm night air, conspicuous only because the previous few nights had been freezing. It wasn't the abnormally high amount of homeless people with cardboard signs on the street, or young men asking us for train fare on the lightrail ride in.

It just wasn't Los Angeles.

Every summer I'd come home to a city that would make me all warm and fuzzy with a touch of "aww cute little Denver" feeling. I would enjoy its walkability, its wide streets, easy to navigate metro system and familiar restaurants and bars. A city without the grimy city smell. I loved Denver and its view of the mountains. 16th mall. Our stupid capitol building with the golden dome. Colfax street, excellently parodied in South Park. The little apartment buildings with studios going for only $450 a month.

But I got down there the other day and stepped off the lightrail train, fully expecting to get that gush of familiar love that I usually get when I visit downtown, and it did not arrive. I looked around, searching almost a little desperately for something to pull me back in. I felt like I was from out of town, and everyone could tell. Even though I knew my surroundings perfectly well, I might as well have been wearing a camera around my neck and carrying a map.

I left my heart back in Los Angeles where I got those warm fuzzies looking through a plane window as we descended into a cloud of smog. I felt at home navigating Hollywood Boulevard and paying twelve bucks for a burger. I rolled my eyes only a little bit at all the hipsters in the Silverlake bars. I smiled to myself when I got stuck in that stupid place on the freeway where the 110 and the 101 cross downtown, where everyone forgets how to properly merge. I didn't care that my hair hated the extra humidity, or that I was sweating constantly, or that I couldn't find parking anywhere. I was home.

I spent a week in Los Angeles at the end of August visiting with friends and moving the rest of my stuff out of the apartment I had been subletting. The move was 5 hours of Sho'toole and I hauling all my furniture into a truck, then hauling it out of the truck, onto some carts, the carts into an elevator, then into a 10x5 storage unit. Then we went to my PREVIOUS storage unit a few floors above— a 5x5— and yanked everything out of there, put it on the carts, carts on the elevator, then into the 10x5. For Sho'Toole's awesome services (which included not only helping me lift heavy furniture, but whistling and singing as he did so) I let him and his roommate borrow my microwave, and I bought him lunch (aka "Probably the Best Hot Dog In the World"— they added the "probably") at Carney's in Studio City.

I also got to celebrate Ryan's birthday at 25 Degrees, a wine and burger bar, near the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This was the place of the aforementioned twelve dollar burger. I must admit it was a damn fine burger, however. Also, they serve wine and sweet potato fries, so I immediately did not care whether the burger was twelve bucks or thirty five. Sweet potato fries are sweet and tasty kryptonite.

The actual first activity I did in LA was pay a visit to Diddy Riese in Westwood, where you can get an ice cream and cookie sandwich for $1.50. Then after I got fries and a coke at In-N-Out. Oh, yeah, and some of my favorite people in the world decided to come too.

Ryan's apartment overlooks Jim Henson studios and is right off Sunset. I got to visit Katie, who lives about 90 feet from the beach. Do you hate my friends yet? I live near Columbine effing Highschool.

The week ended at another birthday party in downtown Hollywood on the roof of a friend's apartment, overlooking the city. Also, there was a pool. I think my week could not have gotten any more "LA" than a rooftop pool party.

But the most touching and sweet moment happened at one of my favorite places in LA. I invited everyone to Canter's friday night at eight o'clock for dinner; a reunion of sorts of our tight-knit group that is now spread across LA trying to afford rent and find work. I facebooked and texted/called everyone, and only a few people replied, so I figured maybe about seven to ten people would show...

Due to getting lost and trying to pry poor Katie away from work, we ended up getting there almost an hour late. We walk toward the back left corner and see that four entire booths were filled with people I love to death. (These are not normal booths: these booths sit like, 6 to 10 people— the kind that curve around the table— and a lot of them had to pull up extra chairs.) It took me a few seconds to comprehend just how many people had shown up. I was completely blown away. I felt really, really loved (which was just what I needed, because the week prior to flying out, I had been having recurring nightmares of returning to LA where no one was happy to see me.) And yeah, I ordered the matzoh ball soup.

So I'm guessing it's probably not the overpriced Jewish delis, burgers, smoggy oceanic horizons, ice cream sandwiches or the city that makes me miss Los Angeles. It's moments like when my friend David, over those expensive burgers, says something like, "You know what the best part of the extinction of the Dodo bird was?" and having him tell you just that.

Or Sho'Toole shaking his fist at my stupid apartment door as I locked it for the last time: "See you in hell, 220!"

Or Allison making fun of me when I am a nerd. And letting me crash an entire week at her house and hogging her bathroom. And letting me eat all her popsicles.

Listening to Elliot Smith in Kevin's truck.

Jason pretending to lick my hair when I hug him just to freak me out.

Brian making 5 second films on the fly and constantly telling stories with awesome hand-gesture illustrations.

DC getting me to eat her food so that she won't eat it later.

Watching Katie and Levi being sickeningly cute and trying to include you in the cuteness even though you aren't dating either of them.

Ryan making his own chocolate chip challah bread.

Getting called "Boobs McGee" for the first time in my life thanks to Jay, the only man that I allow to sexually harass me.

Jon taking me seriously as a cinematographer, and having no idea what that means to me.

RaJen still doting on her residents from when she was an RA, even though we're all weird.

Jess still calling me "roomie" even though we haven't lived together for a couple years. She will always be my roomie.

Ri patiently waiting until I crack a real smile before taking a picture.

Rafael going to a bar with us even though we were totally lame and didn't wanna go dancing.

Alicia showing me her new crush's Myspace and always letting me hang at her apartment at ridiculous hours, driving me everywhere, and letting me complain about boys.

Jeremy driving all the way down to Torrance just to see me, and not even complaining once when I totally got us lost in Culver.

The way Dalton energizes an entire room by announcing his arrival.

Logan putting "Thumbtanic" on and fast forwarding to "the good parts".

Freddie always having cold coca cola available in his apartment.

Maria calling me to make sure I have a place to stay, and always letting me know she's there for me.

Talking with Boston Chris on the phone and him telling me "Y'know, you sound thin!"

Fish driving all the way down to LA from Santa Barbara just because I told him to.

And everyone I love taking the time to crowd into four booths in a deli and wait an hour for me to get there.

I left my heart with these crazy people. They are my home as much as anywhere.