Life on autopilot, or not

The washers and dryers in my apartment building in Denver are exactly the same as the ones in my apartment in New York.

This gives me a feeling of satisfaction like two pieces of Lego clicking together.

People want to know what it’s like to travel around, see different cities, live different lives. It sounds like a grand adventure. What does each city offer that challenges you? What blows your mind?

The reality of doing this is more straightforward and more complicated. What challenges me, what blows my mind—that’s all in the details. A different city, a different apartment, that means a different system. A variation on an underlying pattern. Everywhere I go.

Where do I put my keys? How is my kitchen organized? My socks, where are they? Groceries, how do I get them? Dry cleaning, who does it? Pedicure and dinner and haircut and laundry and all the little details of life—no longer taken for granted, each one carefully considered. A choice.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given on this trip is to appreciate how flexible I am, how quickly I can adapt to a new template. And to recognize that sometimes, something just clicks, a snapping sound when a comfortable notch fits into a well-worn groove.

It will be a pleasure to collect my laundry, because I know how it works.

A conversation in Austin
  • Her: Do you have a pih-yon?
  • Me: Pardon me?
  • Her: I need a peeh-yawhn.
  • Me: I'm sorry, could you repeat that?
  • Her: (enunciating very clearly) A peeeeh-yawwhnnn.
  • Me: Oh. A pen. Sure thing.

Apparently I’m not the only one with this idea! She’s right about minimalism.

Life Lessons: Los Angeles Edition

A movable palm

I learned some things about life, America, and myself by spending a month in LA. Here are the highlights:

  • When it gets really cold (say, below 60) that is a good time to break out your full-length down coat with a hood. Same goes for a fur coat, if you have one.
  • Full-length down coats are appropriate at any temperature if you pull them on over pajamas to walk the dog. (This works in New York too.)
  • The letters “CYN” on a street sign are pronounced “canyon” and not “sin.” Try not to embarrass yourself.
  • As a pedestrian standing at a stoplight, always wait for the crosswalk light, even if there are no cars coming as far as the eye can see in either direction.
  • On the other hand, if you want to enter a crosswalk painted on a busy street where there’s no stoplight, feel free to walk boldly into traffic without looking. They’ll stop.

Now you know everything you need to know about living in Los Angeles! Except GPS. You need it. Trust me.

What it’s like for me to drive in LA

Traffic near LA by Karin Dalziel on Flickr

I love New York because you never have to drive. You can, like me, spend ten or fifteen years perfecting your drinking skills and never need to get behind the wheel of a car.

Here in LA, there is no drinking for me, only driving, only the 3-minute drive to the grocery store and the hour-long drive to lunch and the 45-minute trip that takes an hour and a half because I make a wrong turn. Six times.

I don’t listen to music in the car. I don’t talk on the phone or send text messages or apply mascara or anything else that might distract me from the road. I try not to sneeze, fearful that in that second where my eyes are closed, I might run over a cat.

All I do is what the disembodied voice of the GPS lady tells me to do. I trust her. It’s my most submissive relationship, and I enjoy it. Except when I make a mistake, when I’m very, very bad, and she punishes me with a callous and dismissive word: “Rerouting.”

I am the only person in LA who likes the fact that the freeways are parking lots. “Look at me! Merging into traffic at 5 miles per hour!” I think “I am a great driver.” But this is not true.

I cannot park. I don’t mean I can’t parallel park. I mean I have trouble with all kinds of parking. You people who have mastered the fine art of getting your car straight in the parking space, equidistant between the two lines, how do you do it? I envy you. I park at the farthest edges of the parking lot, and I walk. I like to walk, and it’s the best chance I get.

Adrenaline shoots through my veins for hours each day, leaving me jittery and then enervated. At the end of the day, I crash, fortunately after leaving the car. It’s the best sleep aid I’ve ever found, better even than a glass of wine.

The view out my back window.

The view out my back window.

Thanking the travel gods. My flight was not cancelled.

Thanking the travel gods. My flight was not cancelled.

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Themed by: Hunson