Charming, beautiful, ageless strangers in their best cocktail wear at Bar Chloe in Santa Monica on New Year's Eve, with too-expensive Stella Artois, warm bodies lightly touching as they move through the crowded club, silky fabrics, dim lights and dance rhythms pounding...it was a great way to spend the holiday. I met a group of wonderful ladies (including a jewelry designer whose elegant pieces you can order here), one lovely man, and flirted with everyone. I am visiting my friend Paige, though I know several other people scattered about L.A., and have now met many more. It is my favorite part of traveling, meeting people. I have realized over the years that I collect them. I connect, collect, re-connect, and I may suddenly show up one day asking to sleep on your couch. But I will also return the favor, cook you a tasty meal and even do the dishes. And couch-surfing is indeed what I am doing here...figuratively. On New Year's Eve I slept soundly on an Ikea futon cushion on the floor of an apartment in Venice. The following night I dreamt Grimm's-like visions of forests and wolves at Paige's place. Tomorrow I'll head up the coast to my friend Jay's parents' home, and my last night will be spent at my friend Nancy's apartment. It is a whirlwind itinerary on paper, but day-to-day it has been low key.
I am taking it slow, savoring each moment. I have no major plans apart from visiting friends and seeing a few museums, eating a taco or two, and writing. New Year's day was spent walking on Venice Beach, watching people. The tourists wore shorts, the locals heavy jackets, but everyone donned sunglasses and enjoyed the bright blue sky. Often, I was watching people and their dogs. The dog culture here appears to rival that of New York. Dogs are everywhere, and the only difference I have noted so far is that in New York they may be allowed into a greater proportion of retail establishments than here. For every dog person there was some other wacky individual making him or herself noticeable or at least at home. It's hard to say whether the extreme individuality is a result of comfort or exhibitionism. There was a 60ish man dancing in shorts and no shirt next to the skateboard ramps in the heart of Venice in between roller bladers, some of whom appeared to be swing dancing; there were kids skateboarding, even girls, something I've rarely witnessed in my life; small children sledded down the low sand dunes; and an older woman wearing a heavy winter coat and cashmere beret sat in a lawn chair on the beach near the pier, reading a book with an empty chair beside her, perhaps waiting for someone. Eccentricity is an understatement here.
Yesterday morning, Paige and I took a walk to the Farmer's Market on Grand View in Mar Vista where I ate a scrumptious savory crepe with fresh spinach, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, drank coffee served up by Homeboy Industries, and purchased fresh blueberries...in January! It seems so wrong to this Northern girl, but I'm not complaining. After our food shopping excursion we stopped at Soaptopia, a local soap maker on Venice Blvd. If I lived here I would be a regular. They offer soap-making classes, sell all-natural products and deliver nationwide. If you like yummy bath products, you must visit their website.
The rain hit around midday and indecisively sputtered on and off into this morning. It is a shame on one level, but in the grand scheme of things it does not make a difference to me. I visited with a friend for lunch in Santa Monica and then went to the Getty Villa where we briefly admired various Greek, Roman and Etruscan relics, making the most of the gray, chilly, dampness. The museum itself is small but the grounds are stunning, and worth the visit even in the rain.
I keep saying that I am in "L.A." but in truth I have not really seen L.A. since I've been here...not in the proper sense. I have been in the greater metropolitan area. Today I will see more of the city when I visit with another friend in West Hollywood. More on that later.
I'm not sure what I think of the city yet, but one thing that I was sold on immediately is the plant life. The combination of the plants and the home architecture makes me think of South Africa, but without all of the high security fences. The plants are glorious. The cars I could do without.