Two days in California. Two days away from my usual amount of frenetic news-checking and computer connection, and I'm experiencing a bit of withdrawal and culture shock, as expected.
I certainly know Los Angeles--in fact, I lived here for a year, back in the 70s--but it changes all the time. It gets more and more crowded, with more freeway traffic. Back then, the only really congested times on the freeways were rush hours, but those days are gone. In recent years rush hour seems to have expanded to fill almost all the hours.
There are other differences. One hears English only somewhat sporadically in certain locations (the airport and the car rental place, for example). Then there's the unique and almost endless consumer variety of Ventura Boulevard, which has grown exponentially. To me, the excess is somewhat off-putting and seductive at the same time, its greatest attraction by far being the restaurants and groceries with their amazing variety and almost dizzying choice of ethnicities. In a single block or two, one can find Argentinian, Thai, Persian, Cuban, Indian, barbecue, and Japanese food, in an enticing parade of my very favorite sort of diversity.
One thing that doesn't ever change is the strangeness and the beauty of the vegetation, which hits me anew every time I arrive here from New England--the tropical flowers, the oleanders and the bougainvillea, and all the other cacti and trees and plants which to me are nameless and exotic, and tell me immediately and wordlessly that I've arrived in a very different place.
And then there's the heat, at least in the San Fernando Valley, where I'm based. (That's "the Valley" to most people, as in "Valley Girl," the song). When we landed at LAX the night was cool and almost brisk, with a fine breeze, so much so that I wished I had on a sweater. But by the time I got to the Valley, only a forty-minute drive later, the temperature had risen by about twenty-five degrees. It's been too hot during the day to enjoy doing much outside except scurrying from one air-conditioned venue to another. But still, enjoyable for my purposes, since my goal here is not to sightsee, but to visit old friends and new, and of course to do a lot of fine eating. The weather doesn't interfere with that.