I arrived in Los Angeles yesterday. I’m not used to spending a few leisurely days at my parents’ house. In fact, the very idea of “a few leisurely days with Mums and Dad” is a bit of an oxymoron (no offense!). But I’m running the LA Marathon tomorrow. And I needed/wanted a few days to get acclimated to the heat, the dryness, the timezone.
As most of my NY friends will attest, I had also gotten myself to that tightly-wound point that I sometimes get to where if I didn’t leave NYC soon, I would grind myself into the ground; spin out; burn out. A flight out of town and a distance run were precisely what the doctor ordered.
I rarely, if ever, miss Los Angeles when I leave it, and when I come back, it feels like I never lived here at all. The place changes so rapidly, and things are constantly renamed, so I never know where anything is; can never find my way around. It’s like a lifelong friend who one day, discovered plastic surgery and simply cannot stop cutting; cannot help but alter her appearance on a regular basis, and so whenever I see her, she is virtually unrecognizable.
Later that day, I went to see Tink. Tink, my best friend from college, is settled down, like most of my other friends who do not live in New York. She has a husband, and owns a home. They have a swimming pool and a cat, and they’re perfectly normal insofar as anyone who is associated with me can be “perfectly normal,” (i.e., normal in a limited capacity.)
“The cat had squintos at Christmas,” Tink said, “Well, that’s what I call it when she gets squinty in one eye.”
We were eating pork chops with a rub she’d gotten in Napa. I almost spit my pork across the table at her. “Okay,” I said slowly. Not being a cat person myself, I had little to no affection for the siamese dangling prettily off the credenza behind me. That cat had, after all, surreptitiously come up behind me on the sofa once, and started beating the crap out of my head when she had decided I had overstayed my welcome.
“So I took her to the vet, and it was a vet I had never seen before at our usual vet’s office. He said, ‘I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but she has dark spots in her eyes, and it could mean she’s going blind. You should take her to the vet ophthamologist. So I called around and found one who only charged $150 for the exam and all initial testing.”
“And this was all right near Christmas?’
“Yeah, I mean I wanted to find out sooner than later if my cat was going blind. So I took her in, and the guy saw me, and put up her eyes on this video screen. Turned to me and said, ‘Why are you here, again?’ And I told him about the dark spots. He said, ‘Yeah, cats with blue eyes have spotted pigmentation in their eyes, sometimes. Your cat has blue eyes. That will be $150.’ I literally paid $150 to find out my cat has blue eyes.”
“The best part was, the walls of the office were papered with pictures of animals in glasses. Like, goggles.”
“That’s sort of cute and ironic. The guy has a sense of humor.” I was thinking wallpaper with ironic cats, dogs, bunnies in specs.
“No, I don’t think you understand. Real dogs–lapdogs–in little goggles. And one cat. Nearsighted animals in glasses.”
The best part about Tink has always been her uncanny acceptance of the absurd–and ability to tell stories with complete deadpan. She said the goggles thing with a straight face; put her hands to her eyes like goggles and stuck her tongue out like a lapdog to make her example. And then put them down, straightfaced, as if this all made perfect sense. I could not stop laughing.
“Anyway, we’d better get ready. Tom is taking us to see John Stamos play tonight.”
We were going to a cowboy bar in Chatsworth to see a band play; Stamos was drumming with the band.
Tom, her father in law, former long-time owner of a recording studio, was friends with Uncle Jesse.
Tom arrived shortly. I love Tom; he’s a character, a terrific man. Kind, gentle, peculiar. Practicer of Zen meditation and quirky as hell. Everyone should have someone like Tom in her life.
We drove to Chatsworth. Tom leading, me following my my father’s German tank. I could write for days about the Valley; have written about it before. Places where I laid on golf courses under the stars as a teenager, and kissed tall, insecure boys who had cars; places where the roads were wide and easy to drive (something important when you are sixteen and new at that).
And then we arrived at Cowboy Palace. Los Angeles is full of poseurs. But Cowboy Palace is not. Cowboy Palace is the Real Deal. A) Everyone knows how to linedance; twostep; tenstep; square dance; you name it. If you do not know how to dance, you better get off the damn dance floor. And B) People are in ten gallon hats and wranglers and they are serious about it. Tink in a sparkly J Crew tank, and me in skinny jeans and another of my preferred over-priced t-shirts…we looked as out of place as humanly possible.
Listening to the familiar tunes, listening to Stamos keep beat on drums, Tom pulled me out on the dance floor and I was more than willing. In my old life; as a woman married to Andrew…I would have demurred. Would have wallflowered. But, uninhibited, I twirled and sweated, and knocked into the couples dancing in carefully choreographed time. Bumped the tight-jeaned ladies and their wrangler’d suitors; the leather-skinned cougars and their young bucks.
Tom and I jammed our way through Pretty Woman; heels flying and slipping; my t-shirt falling off my shoulders. Spinning, spinning, spinning. Then we made our way back out to the side of the floor, laughing. Tink’s brother in law had shot a video. We looked fantastic; filled with joy.
Something has changed in me, though I am not always aware of it–especially in the moments when I am wound tightly, like a top, and feel as if I need to run. Run away from whatever I am doing; run away from the people who care about me, because the prospect of some sort of emotional intimacy is simply too much to bear. There are times when feeling settled in New York and settled with other people seems like it is smothering me, and I need to get out before I’m exposed.
Exposed for…what, though?
When my heart is open, when I am dancing like a fool in the middle of choreographed couples; when I am smiling and pointing at my own face on a jumbotron; and when I am remembering that it is okay to stay tethered to home even in the moments when I want to run screaming…those are the moments when I remember that this monumental change has left me better, safer, stronger than I was before.