By Mary Daily
Twenty years ago, I wrote this glowing account of my love affair with Los Angeles, a happiness I hadn’t expected. I meant every word, but things aren’t like that now. Turns out maybe we weren’t meant to grow old together. The city has taken up with a lot of questionable characters, some of whom sleep in my carport. My favorite parks are filled with drug dealers, signs for organ harvesting, and people with severely degenerated lifestyles. This is not the life on which the city and I embarked. L.A. makes me work too hard to enjoy its pleasures. I don’t feel safe and embraced anymore. I appreciate every gift it has given me — and there are many. I will gratefully take them with me wherever I go.
An Unlikely Match
By Mary Daily
I just spent three weeks in my Alabama hometown, following the death of my father at age 92. I saw lots of old friends who asked the same question they’ve asked since I moved to Los Angeles 26 years ago. “When are you moving back?” They try to coax me with low real estate prices and promises to find me a “good man.”
They can’t begin to understand why I would want to stay in Los Angeles, that hellish place teeming with traffic and about to slide into the sea. Where nobody knows you, let alone cares anything about you; where you’re just a number in a faceless crowd. What in the world keeps me here?
Frankly, the last thing I expected in 1973 was to become adjusted, let alone attached to this place. I thought I’d do well to endure it for a while. But my relationship with Los Angeles feels like a long, stable marriage. And sometimes it’s hard for outsiders to understand what keeps us together when we appear ill-suited for each other — the sheltered Southern girl and the sophisticated, sexy city.
But Los Angeles and I have weathered ups and downs over the years, some of our own making, some cast upon us, and I can’t imagine walking away. Although the city didn’t immediately embrace me, over time it welcomed me and gave me unlimited opportunities to grow. It introduced me to smart, inspiring friends and broadened my appreciation of good food, good music, high fashion and simple pleasures. It challenged me to reach farther, aim higher.
In return, I learned to tolerate, even accept, its quirks. A decade ago, I noticed to my surprise that I’d tuned the rhythm of my life around the moods of the city. Without thinking, I know when it’s time for margaritas on the patio or night walks to smell the jasmine; when to get off the freeway for a cappuccino while rush hour passes by; when to hold my purse tighter and walk faster on a dark street. I know to store the good crystal in the low cupboards and not to hang a painting over the bed. I know the back way to the airport and secret surface streets to downtown and Hollywood.
Granted, this companion of mine has its dark and troubled moments, its irritable days, its occasional weeks of upheaval. But they always pass, leaving the two of us more bonded than before. You don’t turn away from what you love just because the going gets tough; you’re there for better or worse.
A wise old woman once told me that the secret to a good marriage is to never be bored with your companion. And while Los Angeles may irritate me, get on my nerves, and wear me out, it never fails to intrigue me. How young and playful it is on gorgeous golden days, how sultry and seductive in the Santa Ana winds, how pensive and introspective during June gloom. How invigorating on Sunset Strip, calming in Palisades Park, sexy on PCH. How could I not be in love?
The place not only gives me space to grow; it inspires me, nudges me — to dream, to be what I want to be, even to reinvent myself if I choose. For fun, it gives me endless choices. As soon as I’ve made the rounds — to Pasadena for shopping and dinner in Old Town, to Lake Arrowhead for skiing in winter and summer, to Santa Barbara for sightseeing, to Laguna for being lazy, to Joshua Tree for wildflowers and desert air, to Chinatown for dim sum — I’m ready to start over again.
I want to repeat the good times and find more. I want Saturday afternoon walking tours of downtown; Sunday brunch in Larchmont Village; tea at the Ritz in Laguna Niguel; old movies at UCLA; sunset at the Getty Center. Someday I will be an old woman still trying to discover all the treasures of the city I came to reluctantly and stuck with stubbornly.
Who knew I’d find my match at the end of Route 66? Who could have guessed how well suited we’d be? I tell my friends back home in Alabama, “It’s something I just can’t explain. We really were made for each other.”
Mary Daily is a writer in Los Angeles.