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#77 A Still Life Calls for a Change

I went on a cruise once, decades ago, and the elevator floor had a removable inset piece proclaiming the day of the week. On the first day my friends and I laughed at this, assuming it was for the hordes of retirees occupying the upper decks. Obviously, those of us in steerage still had enough brain cells to recognize a Wednesday when we saw one. Until, of course, Wednesday came and our only clue was the newly-laid piece of carpet under our pedicured toes. Through the pandemic, my once-fraught relationship with time has unraveled. I've gone from a state of frantically skating along the edge of lateness to floating aimlessly from Sunday to Sunday.

Now a month of Sundays has passed since I arrived in LA. How did that happen?

I have no idea what time it is. But the sun sure looks nice.

As the first week raced by, I was road-weary and bombarded with competing emotions: excitement, fear, hope, grief, gratitude. I settled into my temporary digs – a modestly kitted-out pool house in a cute suburb – unpacking the few belongings I brought from New York. It all fits easily here, better than in the back of the rented Nissan Pathfinder where my bins and bags slid and shifted, always threatening to block our rear view. Every few days we packed and repacked the car and I felt disappointed in myself that I'd held onto so much stuff. "What's even in this box??"

First attempt at packing the car. Many things were abandoned on W. 83rd Street.

I folded and refolded my clothes, arranging them along a borrowed rack. I took my "Fall" sweaters and boots to storage, realizing on day 3 that I if I ever need them, it will be for the three weeks around Christmas. Sunshine, my 5-month old puppy, stepped into her power as a planner of treat-based heists, chewing and scratching her way through the bags of food and treats I'd carefully shuttled across 13 states. I came back one afternoon from grabbing lunch in the house to find her lolling on the cool cement floor, belly bloated from gobbling down a sack of poorly-hidden beef gullets that should have lasted a week.

I caught her trying to hack into my Amazon account to order more gullets. Insatiable.

By the second week, I'd returned the rental car and was trying to navigate LA using Uber and the kindness of friends. I understood quickly that being in the burbs without a car is an expensive and kind of lonely proposition. Already I was eulogizing my footloose and fancy-free life in Brooklyn, missing the freedom that comes with knowing you can leave your apartment at 2 am and get a coffee. Even if you've never, ever, left your apartment at 2 am to get a coffee.

But those car trips that I purchased and mooched were amazing: dinner with friends in West Hollywood, brunch at Venice Beach, lobster rolls in Malibu, toes in the water at Manhattan Beach, bonsai trees in Pasadena, and a good long look at the Hollywood sign.

Bonsai inspo at Huntington Gardens

There's something comforting in the certainty of knowing that even when you buy an $18 smoothie,

your name will still be comically wrong.

I think I also have a picture of myself doing this in front of the Taj Mahal.

Is there a clinical diagnosis for the need to pretend to be

holding up natural and/or man-made wonders?

By week 3 I'd rented another car and was googling: HOW DO I BUY A CAR I'M 50 CAN I GET A DISCOUNT? B.C. (Before California), I couldn't recognize a Honda from a Hyundai or a Buick from a BMW. Now, I was devouring "best of" lists from places like US News and World Report and taking long walks through the neighborhood peering at parked cars. A dog is great cover for this, by the way. You get a lot less weird looks. I test drove a bunch of cars, including the very cool, but also near-death-experience, of taking a Tesla on the 101. Pro tip: when you take your foot off the gas of an electric car going 60 MPH, the car kind of just STOPS. So, be careful of that.

They just let you take the car for a test drive. Like, without supervision. This seems very unwise.

Not a Tesla.

Week 4, still in car shopping mode, but trying not to rush it. I've been feeling this urgency to get all my ducks in a row with where I'm going to live and getting a car and turning Sunshine into the perfect dog*. I think after months of being stuck inside, the isolation, and uncertainty I was feeling in New York – the things that drove me to make this huge leap in my life – are also making me feel I have to go-go-go all the time now that I'm here. Get outside. See all the people. Make things happen. Get settled.

*Impossible, as she is already perfect. Just ask her.

Phase 1 of the slow-down plan.

I think my lesson here is to slow down. Sit with the discomfort. Enjoy my new surroundings. Explore. Don't create problems just so I can solve them. I don't need to figure it all out in one minute. Or even one month.

Sounds like a plan.


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