by Carolyn Blais
One year ago I climbed into the passenger’s seat of my sister’s Honda CR-V that was jammed packed with everything we could possibly fit into Space Bags. After squeaking out a goodbye to my parents through the chokes and gurgles of a too obvious cry, my sister pulled the car out of the driveway. I put down my shades in hopes of stopping more tears from welling up and spilling over, looked for a short time in to the rear view mirror, and then cranked up the radio.
About a week later I found myself, on purpose, in a very hot Los Angeles. So hot, in fact, that it was on fire. My mother was hoping we’d turn around and come back to Boston once we saw billowing clouds of black smoke surrounding the areas of our new home. But a little fire in the hills didn’t scare us. Well it did actually, but we mustered enough East coast tenacity to stand our ground and stay, all the while secretly second-guessing our move. My sister came west because she had been hired to work for a company in Pasadena. But me, what was I doing here? I needed a change that was for sure. And my English and theatre degree was always in the back of my mind—maybe I could put it to good use and really make something of myself here. LA, no doubt, seemed chock full of opportunity. Plus it was most definitely the change of scene I so desperately wanted, not to mention lifestyle, culture, climate and attitude to name a few. If I had my very own Toto I’d proclaim that we were certainly not in Massachusetts anymore. But I quickly embraced this new life I was seemingly embarking on—one of year round T-shirt wearing, fast cars, and In and Out burgers. Everything was new to me, and frankly, exciting. After a year now, I’m still exploring unchartered territory, discovering, learning, and observing what it means to live here. And that’s sort of the very point of this piece—what does it mean to be a transplant in Los Angeles?
Before I started writing this piece I was under the impression that migrants to LA are sort of like convicts and the city is their prison. People seem to be putting in their time in the hopes of having it pay off. From interviews I conducted with everyone from actors, to writers, to nurses, to business people, this seems to be particularly true for the artists, as most admitted that accomplishing their goals has been difficult. As one comedienne put it, “there is no set path, and it’s a game of who you know and being in the right place at the right time.” Another artist finds LA “equally inspiring and frustrating every single day.” A writer claims “LA can be a black hole for goals, for any sense of direction or drive you might’ve had before coming here.” I can imagine the general sentiment is due to the large amount of competition that exists in the “biz.” For those in medicine and the corporate world, career opportunities were less of a challenge, but they still faced dilemmas as any transplant would like making new friends and building relationships. One person alleges this to be due to the city’s “geographical challenges and large population.” Needless to say, with all the trials and tribulations of life in the big city, practically everyone I questioned said with assurance that they love LA and are here to stay for the long haul. It sure does make me wonder; does the love then, exist in the strife?
LA, throughout the years, can probably be described as a metaphorical revolving door: people from all over the world coming and going at any given time. In the early days the pioneers traveled west in search of gold and nowadays the same can be said in a sense. From those I spoke with, it seems that the move to Los Angeles was ignited by temptations of the ever seductive American Dream. People want to enrich their lives in one way or another—maybe become a star on the Walk of Fame, or land some swank job downtown, or live by the beach, under the palm trees and next to the rolling hills. It is admirable this pursuit, and certainly takes great courage. And what I’ve learned from writing this piece is that as a transplant in LA, the American Dream, as we like to call it, can be yours no matter where you came from or who you are. What is great about LA, and the reason I’ve concluded it is so loveable, is that here lives chance and hope. The opportunity to do great things and achieve whatever it is you set out to do in life, is alive and well and ripe for the taking in Los Angeles. One writer I interviewed believes LA to possess “creative energy” and even “magic” which I believe to be true. We all want to leave our own unique footprint along the sands of time, no matter how big or how small and it is the creative magic that dwells here that keeps us going and inspires us through thick and thin. The genuine, shared love for LA exists not in the strife of getting from point A to point B, but in the very fact that point B exists as a point on the map of life and quite possibly can be reached through the crossroads that is Los Angeles.