Friday, January 26, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities

Or I could just move to LA, I suppose.

One of my friends, who recently married a Brit in London (wait--that was supposed to be my story), is having a second wedding reception in Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, three of my friends from Starbucks store 7862 have moved to LA or Santa Barbara themselves. Meanwhile, it's January and winter finally hit my state, so yesterday I fled the cold (I don't mind missing the cold as long as I know we're getting some), and here I am, in a city I have never visited before.

I spent yesterday evening at a restaurant getting mildly and not unpleasantly hit on by the much-younger-than-I-am restaurant-host for the evening, and then reading almost an entire Nick Hornby book at Borders.

My body was three hours ahead of LA's clocks, so I will admit to being rather over-fatigued last night, but for the duration of my read in Borders, I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a large American city and not in London. This sensation of being in London hasn't really left me this morning, either, probably because I haven't been outside yet today, to be confronted by palm trees. But I have been spending large blocks of time pondering what it is that makes me think this North American West Coast city is remotely like the capital of England.

I daresay part of it is due to the fact that I had been writing here about London, and also due to the fact that I used to spend numerous days off in Borders when I lived there, reading books I had no intention of purchasing. (Is this ethically unsound? And if it is, do I plan on stopping, now that I have rediscovered how wonderful it is?)

Also, I kept hearing people speaking with British accents. Mostly southern British accents. London is in southern England. (In case anyone is an active member of the appalling-US-ignorance-of-geography statistic. I am, but less in regard to some places than others.)

Also, Hostess-Extraordinaire-Elizabeth's apartment, while more open than many London flats I encountered, has that same artistic-chic feel that I came to know and love on the other side of the Pond. Simple lines, appealing and well-matched colours, lots of books and interesting artwork, really classy. I always thought that the East Coast was more similar to England in culture and self-expression than the West Coast would be. And I think in some ways it really is. But I'm beginning to see some glimpses of why Beth-the-London-Roommate-from-Oregon adapted to the urban cultural life of London rather more quickly than I did. Or maybe it's just a temperament thing. But so are the Coasts, I'll bet.

Also, like London, LA is very ethnically diverse, I find. I freaked myself out last night when I realised I was having racist cringes walking around the shopping area where I was hanging out. I wanted to call them "thoughts of racial differentiation" because I was the one having them, and I was hoping it would make it sound like I was not being racist--but I was. I noticed that I was a little afraid walking around outside and seeing people of colour hanging around, but that when I went into the restaurant, or Borders, or Starbucks, where there were just as many people of colour hanging around (like me), I felt fine. This kind of thinking--happening in my own head--really bothers me. There were neighbourhoods in London where I didn't feel safe either, but the not-safe feeling had nothing to do with the local ethnicities (it sort of couldn't, because neighbourhoods there are much more mixed, if not actually integrated). It makes me want to move back into a major city where I have to interact with people from everywhere, so I stop thinking polarising thoughts like that.

This afternoon I shall take a walk, and maybe by then LA won't remind me of London at all. But I have to give it a shot.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Welcome to L.A. Enjoy the sunshine!

Christy

Jenn said...

Thanks, Christy!

The irony of course is that today there is no sunshine . . . and my friend with whom I'm staying tonight swore up and down that it would not rain today. Ah well.

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