Sometimes I go wandering around the city by myself. I like to take the train, look at people, sometimes people talk to me...but I'm so bad at small talk that they must think I'm one of those enigmatic foreign types with limited English and leave it at that. The stations and some of the bus drivers are familiar now, and that's almost a comfort if I stop to think about it. It's the first time in my life I've gone for an extended period without close friends at close range. And thus, although this time is a kind of monastic and contemplative window I'll look back on when I'm older, any kind of familiarity is almost a balm.
Yesterday we went down to Santa Monica since they'd closed off a 2-mile stretch to all traffic and just thrown it open to pedestrians. A first for the city, I'm told. So we wandered around in the middle of the streets and sat down on a bench when we heard a piano playing. A pianist had set up right there, in front of a cafe and was playing the most beautiful piece. It felt like being in the middle of a life movie as we looked at pedestrians and their dogs and babies walking by to the soundtrack.
Our cab driver back home took an alternate route, through a winding canyon where we glimpsed stunning homes set deep back in the woods. A welcome change from the freeway, even though the signs saying "Los Angeles" whenever I spot them make me happy. It's all like this these days: familiarity is a warm, almost unacknowledged treasure, and the unfamiliarity and mystery is a thrill.
I'm a city girl at heart. I love this one particularly because of the hills and the ocean, and this dry cool air with its long sunshine spread as far as the eye can see. And the eye can see a long way here, there's no claustrophobia. There's color and birds. I can be happy here. Until my feet start itching again.