I grew up watching the Rose Bowl Parade on television on New Year’s Day and now I live in Eagle Rock five minutes away from the Rose Bowl, and from where they put up the bleachers up each year (on Colorado and Orange Grove Boulevard) for the parade watchers. I walk regularly at the actual Rose Bowl, or outside of it and around a nearby golf course, and swim at the nearby Aquatic Center.
Ironically I’ve never been to the Rose Bowl parade because I’m always back in Missouri for the holidays. Caught between two places is a constant tug of war in my life and makes it hard to be totally present here or put down roots.
Even after being in Los Angeles for seven years, I still wholeheartedly identify with being a transplant, and feel very much an outsider. I didn’t come here for the weather and actually find the endless sunny days a somewhat artificial environment, more a backdrop for a film set, which Los Angeles can seem a lot of the time. I miss the seasons back in Missouri and yes, even the snow, which there was plenty of this year.
The first time I visited Los Angeles was to cover the cable television portion of the TCA press tour for then New York-based Cable Marketing Magazine. I really enjoyed it and remember meeting Christopher Reeve, in his spectacular Superman days. I didn’t know then that I would attend five years of TCA’s, meet showrunners and writers in the business, and that many of these twice annual events would be held at this beautiful hotel in Pasadena.
As someone passionate about television, both covering it and really wanting to write on a television drama or comedy, I visited LA the second time to take a class at UCLA. At that time I lived in St. Louis and was a freelance writer who covered television and contributed to Emmy magazine published out of Los Angeles. I had also worked in the production office of King of the Hill, directed by Steven Soderberg, and shot entirely on location in the city of St. Louis. I had also written my share of screenplays, one that caught the attention of one of the producers of King of the Hill. She asked me to send it to three agents in Los Angeles, and one called me and it was an exciting heady time…but nothing happened.
I came out after that experience and even had an interview with a producer at Universal, who said he couldn’t imagine me being his assistant, fetching coffee, etc. and buying office supplies. I stayed at a small hotel on Wilshire in Westwood. Another time I spent 10 days at a tiny cottage in Venice Beach. It was so close to the other cottages that I could hear their toilet flush. I did end up staying with a chef (I knew his lawyer brother back in St. Louis) at his cabin in Big Bear and he cooked all weekend. Once, I stayed in Burbank with this friend of one of my mom’s contacts back home. One night this girl who drank the entire time I was there made a big dinner and I woke up the next morning to find her cats eating the salmon (and other leftovers) on the dining room table.
My friend, Laura, who worked for the Sheraton Hotel Chain at the time, found me a cheap room at a Sheraton near LAX. I stayed there for 10 days in July or August of 2002 and found my first sublet on Detroit in Hollywood between Santa Monica and Melrose, within walking distance to Pinks (the hot dog place). Then I found my present cottage, first as a sublet. The tenant traveled to India with her boyfriend for a couple of months and then decided to move to Washington D.C. I took that as a definite sign to stay in Los Angeles so I took the cottage.
I just re-watched the M. Night Shyamalan film, Signs, which is playing on one of the premium film channels. But the first time I saw the film was during that scouting trip here in the summer of 2002. I saw it alone in Culver City. While it involved crop circles and a possible alien invasion, it was really about a family, a man who was once a priest and leaves the church after the death of his wife six months earlier, and how he’s raising their two children (played by Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin) while grappling with a loss of faith. There is that critical scene where Mel Gibson talks to his brother (Joaquin Phoenix) about the two types of people in the world, those who believe in miracles and signs and that someone is watching over them and those who think it’s all random and that we are virtually alone.
Looking back on journal entries, I wrote that Los Angeles was a soul sucking place. I feel the same way now, but I don’t regret coming here. I’ve had some amazing experiences and there are good people here they’re just harder to find. I am from the Show Me State after all.
Walking along the beach in Malibu is still an incredibly spiritual event. There’s definitely something to being on the coast, to standing on the edge of the earth, or at least the land and looking out into endless water. But I’m more influenced by growing up in the land-locked Midwest so maybe that’s why I don’t mind living East, near Pasadena. Near the Rose Bowl.
When I first moved here I was much more of a tourist…going everywhere on my own . Now I’m much less excited but have more perspective. Still, my timing has always been way off. I didn’t come to Los Angeles until after 9/11, when the sluggish economy started going downhill and has gotten progressively worse. I had no idea that my Yorkshire Terrier, Isabelle, my friend, companion and family, would die here…and I didn’t think about all I would miss back home, especially with my niece and nephew or my mother growing older or my friend Laura’s illness and death from breast cancer.
The sages say that if you’re on the right path, the world opens up its arms to you. I used to feel I was, but now…I grapple with what to do with my life. A few days ago I found out that my landlord is going to try and sell the cottage where I live. So, I’m asking myself is this a sign? Like street signs that point us in the right direction when we’re driving, I need a sign from the universe to help point me in the right direction.
Do you believe in signs?