The first afternoon of my shiny-new Masters in Creative Writing residency in Culver City, a worried-looking man at the bus stop I was walking past stopped me, in halting English, with a question. Based on his appearance, I guessed he had immigrated from central Africa…but when his English failed, he tried a nice, fluent Spanish–and there we found a common place to converse about bus routes (and the fact that I, an out-of-towner, knew less than he did).
“Now that was an LA moment,” I thought. And that’s why I’m here: for the writing instruction, yes–but even more for the moments I cannot experience via Zoom.
Greater Los Angeles is a stunning place, in all the meanings of that word.
Since I’m here in full Writer Mode, I’m noticing every way that I’m being stunned, mostly on my 2-mile, twice-daily walks between the campus of Antioch University Los Angeles and the wonderful friends who are hosting me. Starting with these astounding ficus trees, planted down multiple Culver City streets…
…whose roots are painfully constrained by concrete, and yet–they tower.
Since I’m entirely on foot, thanks be, I only have to deal with traffic when I cross the street. But this vehicle caught my eye as an embodiment of SoCal culture:
Antioch U itself is housed in a stunningly corporate-looking building, one of a cluster offering office space to such stunningly _____ (insert your own adverb here) corporations as Tik-Tok.
I’ve never worked in a building like this, but this scene through a window on the ground floor tells me that at least someone in there has a good sense of humor:
Being, y’know, corporate and all, the building-cluster is thoroughly landscaped…
…and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I found this Pacific Northwestern sister, this madrona tree, literally chained to a concrete block.
I have no critique of Angelenos or anyone else who chooses to live in a megalopolis. There’s just so much here here, it takes my breath away. So I’m finding special comfort in whatever feels familiar–not in that creepy, chained-down-madrona way, but like these adorable turtles…
…in the grotto pool of the Catholic cemetery I cross through on my walks to & from campus.
In the end, everyone wants to feel at home, whatever home means, right? Which is a good thing to be pondering as I launch into a brand-new writing project with some brand-new helpers who come from places so very, very different from my little island. In the end, we all want comfort, whether that means a shiny sports car, an untethered tree…or just a sweet cat to lie on our tummy.
Until Part II, may comfort be with you!