A Love Letter to LA
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
“Los Angeles isn’t just a city. It’s a living, breathing thing. And that’s why, even when I think of all the reasons I should move out, I can’t bring myself to do it.”
A friend told me this early on in the year as we sat in my car with the windows down, sun half-blinding me as I squinted ahead at a stoplight. I was just two weeks fresh off the plane to Los Angeles. Funny enough, even though I still sponsored that newbie happy-go-lucky grin with eyes as bright as Hollywood spotlights to match, it felt like I was returning to a place I’d known my whole life.
If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from the brief months I lived there, it’s that good or bad, the city is consuming. In a world where technology makes connecting to other people and places so easy, it's ironic that you can often find yourself caught up in the microcosm of Los Angeles.
In other words, it's easy to forget the Earth does not revolve around Melrose Avenue.
LA is expensive. It’s crowded. It’s full of Barbies and Kens whose trust funds went straight to *insert famous plastic surgeon*‘s wallet. It feeds egos. It worships fakes. And you’ll spend more time staring at the thinning hair of the driver in front of you on the 405 during rush hour than you will spend actually moving forward.
Yet I’m still sitting here shivering in the middle of Indiana, wearing my fuzzy socks and trying not to let my eyes cloud over and prevent me from seeing the keyboard.
I have never loved a city more than I have loved LA.
It’s like the friend you have that you always apologize for when you go out. “I promise she’s nice, she’s just had a bad day!” “She’s not usually this sloppy, we bought her too many drinks, I swear.” “She takes a little warming up to, but I’m telling you she’s the coolest person you’ll ever meet.”
There have been more changes in my values, interests, and goals throughout my life than I can count, but there has always been a single constant, and for whatever reason, it was this fascination with a picturesque city in the Southwest corner of California.
When I was a kid all I wanted was to be on TV - not because I wanted fame or money, but because I wanted to entertain. I wanted to make people laugh, cry, feel something.
I held up glow sticks in front of my mirror and practiced my best, “I’m Allison Witucki, and you’re watching Disney Channel!” routine numerous times. (If you don’t know this reference we’re no longer friends.) I auditioned for every school play and musical (despite never having the vocals, and once, when I was eleven, even sang with a fever). I made my mom sign me up for online audition websites that sucked money from my parents’ pockets every month in exchange for nothing but a bit of hope that I'd land a one-way ticket to LAX.
When I was twelve, I broke down to my parents one night, begging them to move us to Los Angeles. They told me, quite understandably, that we could not uproot the entire family across the country for me to pursue a dream.
So I packed Los Angeles away in the files of my brain like you pack away that suggestive waitress costume you wore one Halloween (the one that scored you a couple phone numbers), hoping you’ll see the day you can find a reason to take it out again.
At eighteen I fell in love with bodybuilding. I went from Shy, Insecure Booknerd Allison to “You’re Rambling Again. Please Tone It Down” Allison. My confidence - my entire demeanor - changed. I looked up to Arnold like many girls look up to Beyoncé - I was enamored. I wanted to see where it all started - a little place called Gold’s Gym in Venice.
Once again, I was pulled back to Los Angeles like a kid wanting seconds on dessert. A taste is really just never enough.
I went to visit LA twice before moving there in January. The first was on a family vacation, and I got to hit all the tourist traps right off the bat. Walk of Fame - check. Hollywood sign - check. Greasy Animal-style In N Out burger and fries - check.
The second time, I stayed with a friend for the LA Fit Expo. Screw the sights, I was getting a crash-course in all things LA. Driving 30 minutes to your favorite dinner spot? Totally normal. Hiking Runyon on a Saturday? A big no-no. Drinking tap water? As if. Pass the Brita.
When I knew I was going to get to finish my last semester of school out there, I was ecstatic. I wanted it all. The good. The bad. The ugly. (And the Animal Style. No, I don’t think it’s overrated, okay?)
I had ten beautiful weeks in Hollywood.
I went to concerts with torches, lasers, confetti and more - shows I never pictured I’d be going to. I met people I felt completely unqualified to be in the presence of. I made friends with all kinds of different creatives. I learned to shed my fear of telling people what I wanted to do and discovered everyone out there wanted something just as much as I did. I hiked and saw views prettier than the postcards. I ran along the beach and didn’t even think about how much my lungs burned, because the place itself was too breathtaking. I came to realizations about my life that I never would have come to had I stayed in my hometown. I was growing into a different version of myself - a better version, and I was watching all the mistakes I’d made in the past and all the effort I’d put into getting my goals in line actually make sense.
I struggled a lot in finding where I fit in while growing up. Los Angeles felt like a warm embrace. A 75-degree, no rain or cloud to be seen, embrace.
I chose to temporarily leave because of Coronavirus. I joke all the time that whenever I fly out of LAX, I’m always in tears. On the way there in January, I thought I’d seen the last of that. Two Mondays ago, as I buckled my seat belt and adjusted my N95 respirator mask, the waterworks returned.
Leaving Los Angeles always feels like a bad breakup. Whenever I sit at the gate and see the “Indianapolis” sign blink over the tunnel, my mind starts racing with thoughts like, “What if you just don’t get on? What if you just miss it? Yeah, staying is not what’s best for you right now, but it’s what you want.”
This time it felt different. The virus has taken LA and tainted it - as it has with pretty much most of the world. So while I’m sad I don’t get to finish my final college semester sitting in the theater seats at Raleigh Studios like I had been, and instead have to tune in via Zoom calls at my parents’ kitchen table, I know that this is all temporary.
Los Angeles, I’ll be back.