My move to Los Angeles was initially isolated and singular. The universe shrank quickly to a loose network of home improvement and furnishing stores, with the house in the center, a house that took up at least ninety of my first hundred hours in the city. The only smells were of the floor finish and new upholstery and bleach, the sounds of passing traffic, clattering diesel delivery trucks and the clamor of the elementary school across the street. Los Angeles was not a location as much as a field across which we foraged to find the necessary items to complete our move. The city was undifferentiated save for traffic and the point locations of easy left turns. I abandoned strategic understanding for a tactical knowledge, always what was coming next and how to expedite my immediate needs. I became almost feral, if domesticity can be feral.
Four days later Katy’s brother stopped by to see the place and eat dinner. Dinner was eaten out, lending a new possible use for these streets and intersections—enjoyment. I had not even considered the possibility that we could go anywhere else but back home when Chris suggested we drive around and get a feel for the neighborhood. Thus, in the backseat and four days late, I got to see a little bit of L.A.
We took the PCH to Topanga canyon drive, cutting the luminous dark where the coast meets the asphalt. Viewing Venice from Malibu was like seeing it from space—a slowly revolving and changing collection of disembodied lights, sliding without reference. A single right turn reversed my existence, and now the entire world was a set of taillights, and whatever shreds of foliage and stucco was visible in the penumbra of our headlights. This was slow going, as we were stuck behind an aging Jeep Grand Cherokee, but abruptly we crested the hill and I was treated, unexpecting, to one of the great stereotypes of Los Angeles Driving: a panoramic grid of lights, extending into the horizon.
My first thoughts were of Spielberg movies, with golden retrievers and Eucalyptus, but I got over that quickly. By now we were descending, and after another quick right we were on the 405, and then we were back in the city. Things were moving faster than I could process them, and things seemed suddenly, comfortably, out of control. The complexity of things around me became apparent, as an extension of the complexity of the drive, with the traffic, billboards, and multiplying exits. This expanding awareness of multiplicity made other cities seem cartoonish, simple, and old. In thirty seconds, I had been introduced to the center of what people like about this city.