I just spent a week in Los Angeles. On my own without E or J. It was my first trip outside of Montana since July 2014 unrelated to the death of my mother and father (I don’t count my parents’ funerals, nor clearing out their house as a break). This trip was about taking time out to think, to walk, to see the desert, to glut on art and sushi, to stare at the ocean and to catch up with friends. I hadn’t realised how crucial a week away can be if the timing, the geography and the company are just right. I returned to Missoula restored, not just to my middle-aged self, but to another much younger self. The twenty-something self who didn’t plan much and ended up in strange situations often with strangers.
So it was that I managed to go to East Jesus in Slab City, Salvation Mountain, the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach with a friend who is as mad on Outsider Art as I am. We also went to Palm Springs which is a bit like Vegas minus the gambling but just as surreal. No one should ever golf in the desert. Another friend took me to the most perfect rooftop bar in Downtown LA where we watched the sun bounce off the buildings before sliding behind the montains and where someone bought me a beer because he had knocked my bottle over and a tiny dribble fell out (“I need to buy you another one”, he insisted, “you lost at least three sips!”). I visited Pitzer College where my Outsider Art friend teaches the History of Sport, and where I found out he is a proper, serious, generous writer (how did I not know this?) and where he gave me a copy of one of his books (thank you David). And I walked to Santa Monica pier from my friend Alex’s apartment—a friend whom I have known for almost 25 years who has seen me—we have seen each other—though some difficult life situations. And I got time with another London friend who worked in the Film Shop in East London with me. We nerded out on films and I got to hear about her work and her life full of push and pull in the Golden City.
And I went to the desert with my friend at Pitzer College and a mutual friend of ours whom I met almost twenty years ago on the very same picnic where I met my husband. And I finally got to Watts Towers which I have been wanting to see all my life, and I drank a perfect Mojito, and walked through Skid Row thinking it was like a demented, apocalyptic version of Dante’s Hell, where the friend from the picnic picked up a woman, who was lying on her back in her own vomit, so she wouldn’t choke. And I had a meeting with an editor at the LA Times who is wonderful and says nice things about my writing. It was a trip on the move, full of strange juxtapositions and contradictions, yet it was perfect, fluid, easy and a necessary reminder that life can be all these things.
And I discovered a new writer called Eve Babitz. I started reading her book, Eve’s Hollywood while I was there. She says stuff like this: ‘Culturally, L.A. has always been a humid jungle alive with seething L.A. projects that I guess people from other places just can’t see. It takes a certain kind of innocence to like L.A., anyway. It requires a certain plain happiness inside to be happy in L.A., to choose it and be happy here. When people are not happy, they fight against L.A. and say it’s a “wasteland” and other helpful descriptions.’ She is like a corporeal version of Joan Didion and her godfather was Stravinsky. She is my new literary love.