Day 1: Getting hereAugust 8, 2008
7 August 2008
I arrived in LA at 8:40am today, August 7, 2008. After touchdown at LAX, I checked my voicemail and heard what sounded like an automated message from the airline. When it started, I thought, “WTF, I didn’t give Northwest Airlines authorization to call my cell phone! So I’m getting spam voicemails from them now? Fantastic. First we’re paying for higher fuel costs, and now this? Dayum!”
The message went like this: “Welcome to Los Angeles. Please proceed to the baggage claim area. You are now entering … la-la-Land.” That stuck me as a rather odd welcome message, at which point my friend Holly’s REAL voice kicked in. She knew I was leaving this morning and had called to send me good wishes. It was the perfect way to start this adventure.
The bargain-priced $1 bus ride into West Hollywood was a pretty good value, I gotta say. I stopped for a coffee and listened to chatter from nearby tables. I guess it was pretty typical LA chatter: movie industry schedules, ab workouts and gay sex preferences (it was WeHo, after all). After a rest, it was finally time to trek to the house I am watching for my friend while he’s off climbing some mountain peak in Indonesia. Such a slacker.
Let me just say, I like to think I’m in relatively good physical condition, but this first walk from Sunset Boulevard to my friend’s house in the hills… well, I seriously thought it was going to kill me. I considered reciting my last will and testament into my cell phone voice recorder. It was 1.3 miles, ALL UPHILL, and with the noon-day sun beating down on me. Plus, my carry-on probably weighed about 25 or 30 back-breaking pounds. I had put on sunscreen during my rest break at Starbucks, and I’m pretty sure that was rendered useless after about a quarter mile because I was sweating like a hoss cat stranded in the Saraha. I actually had to stop for a water break at one point. I leaned on a dumpster thinking, “Maybe this is Paris Hilton’s dumpster for lawn clippings, and if I die here… well that’d just be so… not hot.”
The road kept going and going and going, and I remember proclaiming out loud “Sweet Mother of God, when will it end? How far ’til the moon?!” Finally, the street peaked and I started walking downhill… and after about 50 feet I reached the house. Well, thanks a bunch. I get a whopping 50-feet of downhill walking after that mile-and-then-some trek up the hill. Figures. But the good thing is: after traversing that hill multiple times a day by foot or bike, I am going to have calves the size of Montana and an ass so hard it will cut glass. And that’s what’s most important, right? Welcome to L.A., baby.
When I got to my friend’s house, I took about a half-hour to recover. I was soaked, out of breath and all-around… totes disgusting. Since I had been up for more than 24 hours with little more than some fitfull sleep on the airplane (and did I mention the damn long walk up the hill to the house?), I was beyond exhausted. I went through all of his notes about where things were, what plants needed watering, where each of the 18 bathrooms were in the house, etc.
And bless his heart – he had gone to Trader Joe’s and bought me some food before he left for his trip. Well shit, you’d think I hadn’t eaten for 15 years because I could not load the food into my maw fast enough. Bread, eggs, chocolate chip cookies, apple slices, turkey, soda… anything edible that was within reach was in jeopardy. If a small game animal had been passing by it would have been caught up in the vacuum that was me eating everything in sight.
So after eating and a lovely nap, I’m settling in for the evening. I do have some work to deal with tonight because I need to hit the ground running tomorrow, and there is no way on God’s green earth I am traversing that hill/instrument of torture again. I know it won’t be as bad when I’m not carrying a big backpack, but even if Madonna herself were giving out $500 bills while 1000 A&F model/virgins offered themselves to me for my amusement, I ain’t going back down tonight. Well, hmmm… for Madge… I might reconsider…
The best moment of my day today happened not long after I arrived, though. Let’s go back to earlier in the day right after my flight arrived. For a long time before coming here, I’ve been pondering what’s next in my life, career, all of that. The decision to move to Los Angeles and see what I can make happen here wasn’t exactly easy, and there is plenty of residual doubt, fear, heartache, unknowns… all those things that go along with big change & major decisions. Am I making the right choice? Is this right for me? Can You give me a sign? (‘You’ being God, fate, the Universe or whatever works for you.)
Anyway, I get off the LAX shuttle at the airport’s city bus transit station. I know I need the #6 Culver City bus going to UCLA/Westwood. I can see the bus idling there about to leave, and I start to trot a little bit toward it. I’m approaching it from the front so I know the driver can see me free and clear. I’m 20 feet away from the bus, waving my arms at him and he drives away. Bitch! That’s hard core, but I guess I understand he has a schedule to maintain. Fine. No biggie. I get over it quickly. Another #6 comes in 15 minutes, so that’s not so bad. I double-check my schedule because these days I’m teetering on obsessive-compulsive about these things. Yep, the #6, Bay 10. OK, I’m in the right place. I check my schedule and the sign 12 more times before I decide I’m OK to sit.
So I find a bench and relax. Wow. I’m finally here. It’s happening. It feels good so far, but it’s only been 20 minutes. Who knows what will happen? This is the right thing, right? I should be doing this, right? Is this the right time and place for me? For my life? Career? Finances? My mind races. I look at the sign AGAIN to make sure I’m in the right place. And on the sign that I’ve looked at 15 times already, I saw something else. My name. ANDY. My own freakin’ name is right up there on the sign. I swear to God, I’m not making this up. Here’s the proof:
In that moment, I realized that was my sign. The right time, the right place. A wink from the Universe, to quote a friend of mine. As I stared at it in amazement, my eyes welled up. OK. You have my attention. I’m listening.