“At the core of every act of vulnerability is an honest desire and longing for connection.” — Brené Brown
It’s eight-ish in the evening, and I’m in the car at Alvarado and Sunset. The road work from earlier in the morning is clear, and the taco truck has taken up its usual place in the Car Wash parking lot at the southeast corner of the intersection. I went for a run around Echo Park Lake, and then made dinner. Now I’m out picking up an evening snack when Brené’s words leap from the radio and sit with me — in this temporary car, in this temporary house, in this temporary city.
Los Angeles is more beautiful to me than ever before, but I can’t tell you why — maybe I wasn’t ready for it when I lived here initially — maybe I didn’t have the eyes and heart for city living way back when — maybe I looked for all the wrong things — maybe I lost sight of why I was in Southern California in the first place —
I would love to tell you Los Angeles is an amorphous body of dreamers, nine-to-fivers, liars, happy-go-luckies, poverty-stricken, wealth-afflicted, vitamin-D-worshippers, surfers, potheads, suburban crypt-keepers, apartment rats, tree-huggers, gas-guzzlers, shitty guitarists, dog-walkers, bar-hoppers, bros, ho’s and assholes. And then I would love to tell you the traffic is too crazy, the beach is too beautiful, and the average number of times people cite Instagram as a source of news and/or conversation is too fucking high.
But I can’t say any of those things; not with a sincere heart. Some of those things I mean, some of them I don’t, some of them I do but only half-way, some of them I do but I’m talking about something else. If I say those things about Los Angeles, I am perhaps many things — bitter, funny, observant, short-sighted, biased — but I am not truthful. Brené continues and tacks on this gem to the previous line of stone:
“Live-tweeting about your bikini wax isn’t an act of vulnerability.”
More words joining me in the rental car. The front seat’s taken, but they gladly take up occupancy in the back. My heart bounces ‘round, and as often happens, I wind up thinking about Story, about why I think the way I do. Good stories, are, for me, about vulnerability. Perhaps that extends to cities also — perhaps my opinion of a city changes based on how vulnerable I think its citizens are — about how the city views vulnerability —
You can get as much information as you want about someone living in Los Angeles. When you talk to someone, you can find out where they’re from, their favorite restaurant, who they follow on all kinds of social media, what show they’re binging on —
Stop. Just stop.
Apologies for the previous paragraph. Reeks of bullshit. I’m going to try this again.
Lord, Los Angeles works a strange magic on me — I never go through as many highs and lows in a day as I do here. Never do I feel so connected and severed, so belonging to everything and yet a part of nothing. Whatever I know, someone knows more. Whatever I do, someone’s already done.
Lord, never have I seen such a collection of hearts; each and every one of them broken. Loud and blasting, foaming at the mouth, cacophonous. A near-earsplitting heartache, over and over again. Sunrise, sunset. Heartache, heartache.
And yet the broken-hearted claim wholeness; through work, through relationships, through achievement, through perception, through objects. If broken, work to fix. If broken, use others to fill gaps. If broken, strive and overcome. If broken, lie-cheat-and-steal to seem whole.
Lord, you love Los Angeles as much as you love Philadelphia, and you work to redeem this city as much as you work to redeem Philos — you care for the people of Echo Park as much as you care for the people of Fishtown — you desire peace for the man who sells flowers at the entrance to Forest Lawn as much as you desire peace for the man who sells bean pies on the Girard St. Bridge.
Lord, I ask forgiveness for the earlier parts of this thing. Forgive me when I bullshit and talk cynical. Forgive me because it’s me hiding. If I’m honest I feel a weight and expectation about this place. This place is magic, but in the same way Tulsa is magic, in the same way Mogadishu is magic and the shores of the Caspian are magic — because you made them, Lord. You made Alvarado and Sunset, and you made the taco truck, and you made the Hollywood Sign.
Los Angeles makes me feel wholly loved and utterly alone. In my limits, I panic and prance and scream and shout and grind myself to dust. Los Angeles is a beautiful place, but only by your grace. You’re all over the place, Lord. If only we’ve eyes to see.
You, oh Lord, give me rest. You, oh Lord, bring me peace. As I travel on, I pray for Los Angeles. Be with The Angels, as you are with Brotherly Love. Amen.