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it is in the leaving...
that makes me sure
that makes him sure
that this is a great love
it is in the leaving

-Nicole Blackman

The times I realize how in love I am with Los Angeles are right before I go on vacation. I get nervous. My nerves bunch up and I’m afraid to leave, like I might miss something. Every palm tree looks poetic, and every Hispanic has a story. I’ll miss him, I think, as if I knew who he was and saw him every day, as if the distant hills were the ridges of his languid, lovely hips.

People think LA is all about glamor and movie stars and getting tan. That everyone is shallow and everything is expensive and everywhere is really nowhere when you get down to it. Image. Who created that one? Bitter souls who couldn’t make it? Business moguls who moved for all the wrong reasons?

The other day I drove to work, which is in Encino, twenty miles from downtown. The sun was high and dry, the fog soft and low. Freeway to freeway, I was free, in a way, my favourite song blasting and the road stretching forever into the world’s largest sea. When the guitars and strings came together in the coda, I thought of how badly I wanted to be exactly where I was.

Last summer I stood on the Santa Monica Pier for a show. The Waifs, an Australian folk band, were playing for free. Because it was free, crazy old men clapped and lost moony ladies swayed inside their minds. Some of them were toothless and didn’t care because right then, they were fine. The more the sun set the more violent the music got, and during a particularly raucous bit I looked up to find bubbles. Someone had blown them over everyone. Was there a soul who felt less than whole? I couldn’t seem to find that supposed shallow side.

Up on a hill downtown, Second Street splits and waves into a gorgeous neighbourhood where jacarandas colour the street and salons advertise their own strengths. I was stopping while a Latino boy took another’s hand and the crosswalk with care, completely oblivious to anything bigger. A girl was catching up, garbling her skirts in huge black boots. School far behind them, their skin glowed enough to scorch my eyes. If everyone could see this, I thought… and didn’t finish, but drove on.

The Walt Disney concert hall opens starward like a flower.

On corners of Little Tokyo are shops crowing with customers.

It’s the urge to roll in beach sand that’s hard, fighting it off because oh, I know I paid a hundred dollars for this dress—

Pool halls in Korea Town are open all night.

Black kids play baseball at the edges of Echo Park.

Every small corner grins with the neon of twentyfourhour gas.

And on the bad mornings, I still think – here comes the sun. I’ll look out the windows of planes and feel the loss. Because no matter what happens in LA or when, I know I can always count on the sun.

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