I’ve loved Southern California since before I was born. Because both sets of my beloved grandparents lived and loved in Southern California. Because my parents grew up there, and somehow, it felt like home. Because it was always sunny in my childhood. Because the sand was white and the waves were rowdy. Because the palm trees were exotic. Because it represented vacation.
I couldn’t figure out why my parents moved away from such a haven.
Today, I’m still living in the region my parents chose when fleeing LA: the Pacific Northwest. I love it here, in spite of the rain and the gray skies. And I still love Southern California, in spite of the smog and the crowds. I traveled to LA last week with my family, marking the first flight after Giovanna’s second birthday, the first flight where we had to buy her a seat (this was a good idea), and I remembered why I fall in love with California, over and over again.
It wasn’t perfect. The traffic was horrendous. One night, I tweeted: If I can sit on a crowded bus for 1.5+ hours w/2 yr old on my lap (during dinner time), I can do anything. James was working, so I had to fend for myself. In spite of being sunny, it was often chilly, and it rained on our first day, which I couldn’t believe. My cousin was the silver lining. James booked the hotel through work and it just happened to be a few blocks from where she lives. As a doting mother to a nursing toddler, I don’t get out much. And while I don’t derive the same pleasure from bars and clubs as I once did, I still have fun. I still enjoy the scene. I still love to dance.
My cousin took me out to The Roxbury in Hollywood where we happened to share a table with Mischa Barton. The club throbbed with a heady energy, the kind that makes you shake your booty with ease and grace. Or so you think. It took me a good half hour to acclimate to the club, to rediscover my inner party girl, but she’s still in there, albeit subdued.
Another night, my cousin and I sat in the lounge at The Standard in West Hollywood and watched two intimate acoustic performances. We giggled and whispered in the corner, catching up and having too much fun. We tried to pay attention, but it wasn’t until the next artist took the room, Shane Alexander, someone whose performance made me want to lie on the cold ground and stare in awe at the sky, that we actually stopped talking and started listening.
Determined to live as if it was summer and not winter, and because the sun was warm in certain spots, I took Giovanna swimming in the hotel pool and frolicking on the Santa Monica beach.
We were often on the go, which meant she occasionally napped in the front pack. She weighs 25 pounds now, but I handled it. For her.
Once James had a day off, we visited the Getty, together with our baby, marveling at the paintings and the views, and for a moment, I was transported to Europe, perhaps Florence or Paris, where the art inspires reverence and the history revives learning, and each exhibit leaves you itching for more knowledge.
We ate out a lot, which translated into countless spills and messes and fusses. (Reminding me why I like to cook at home, especially for dinner when little ones tend to be tired.) At one of our many meals, we saw Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, dining with his family. Because that’s how it is in LA.
We stayed at three different hotels. The Standard in West Hollywood, where design meets swank, and every night from 8 pm to midnight a girl sits in a glass box behind the front desk (think fishbowl), just living her life. Meditating. Napping. Reading. iPhone-ing. They call her the box girl.
At the Roosevelt pool, which was a place to be seen, she flirted like crazy.
And on the last night, we stayed at the Thompson in Beverly Hills, where modern meets wealth (think rooftop pool with panoramic views and black lacquered halls). I don’t have any photos from this one, but I do have a story. Neither a TV star like Mischa nor an internet tycoon like Jeff could even begin to compare to the starlet we ran into at the Thompson.
Until next time. (Because this post is getting long.)