December 16, 2003

myriad cities

Sunday afternoon we went to the annual Venice Boat Parade, a motley collection of home-decorated boats and homemade costumes all floating along the man-made canals. It was a beautiful afternoon, just post rain. The clouds like soft swirled ice cream, the air cool and clear. The water shimmered in the late afternoon sun, the mallards quacked their hoarse calls for scraps of bread, the pirate ships threw fake cannonballs at each other on the water, someone in a tiny rowboat drummed a backbeat giving rhythm to the event.

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People walked alongside the canals, spilled out of houses Ė everyone who lives in those narrow, tall houses has a party on this Sunday, it seems, inviting their friends to come see the boats together. Lots of kids. Lots of smiles. A real neighborhood feeling.

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I imagined living here, in this almost-secret (but so-expensive) pocket of city. Water, palm trees, no cars whizzing by in front of your house but no back yard either. Houses built so close youíre forced to know your neighbors. So narrow you canít turn around but the roof garden is lovely. Itís a different life from our also-urban existence in our Hollywood bungalow.

There are so many different LAs. Thereís one where you live on a windy canyon road and hear coyotes at night and your backyard is a steep dry brush slope and the city sparkles at your feet every night like the contents of a jewel box dumped on a bedspread. Thereís the one where you live on a street filled with fifties ranch house boxes with every back yard the same size and shape and all the modern amenities and you have to drive in five miles of infuriating city traffic to find a non-chain restaurant. Thereís the one where you live on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the one where you live in a dilapidated fourplex apartment building or a Spanish-style apartment building, two stories, surrounding a courtyard with banana trees and you feel like youíre inside Day of the Locust and you hear every damned word your neighbors say. So many cities in one. (Yes, I know, Iíve stayed solidly middle-and-upper class here in my imaginings; thatís the reality of my life and my friendsí lives.) So many cities. So many lives.

I think sometimes about trading houses. It means stepping into a new life. Like moving to a different city. How do you decide what city, what life suits you? Even within a certain financial constraint (we canít live in one of those houses lining the canal even if we wanted to), you can make a choice that defines the quality and flavor of your daily life. Where the grocery stores are, who your neighbors are, what farmerís market you shop at (if you do), what church or synagogue you attend (if you do), how you feel when you pull into your driveway or walk up your walkway or steps and slip your key into the front door lock. How can you choose that? Is it just luck that says ďMy job is here, my friends are there, my budget is this, therefore I live in this radiusĒ? We choose the way we want to live but it also chooses us, doesnít it? More money means more control, of course. But Iíve chosen so far to mainly stay close to Hollywood. Sometimes now I think about moving further south, further west, even further east (Silver Lake). Each time itís somewhat like trying on a new set of clothes but more like finding a new me in the mirror. A new definition of my life. Iím looking forward to that, whenever it happens and whatever it turns out to be.

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Posted by Tamar at December 16, 2003 10:20 PM