I have this friend Laura, who lives in Los Angeles and inspires just about everyone she knows. Actually, it’s not necessary to include the words “just about.” Laura is one of those folks who gets you thinking about things you’ve always talked about doing, and makes you calmly ask yourself why you haven’t gone and done them.
For Laura is one of those amazing folks who decides that she’s going to do something, and does it. When she was a kid, she decided she wanted to play guitar. So she got one, practiced till her fingers bled, and got really, really good at it.
I mentioned this once to Beth, a lifelong friend of hers, and Beth started to give me a litany of other things that Laura just decided to do, and went ahead and did.
At one point, she decided she wanted to take martial arts, so she threw herself into Jiu Jitsu and eventually got good enough to teach. Then, when an injury caused her to give it up, she got into yoga. Soon she got so good at yoga that she started to enjoy it more than her well-paying job as a theater teacher (where, of course, she worked hour after hour on directing shows), and gave serious thought to leaving it all behind and moving to Los Angeles to teach yoga.
And now she lives in Los Angeles, and teaches yoga. She just left everything and moved there. She left it all behind—the good salary, the promise of a pension—and started a new life.
A few years ago, when I visited her, she was full of energy, and got me all fired up to start my new life after my marriage ended.
I think about of all of this as I contemplate visiting Los Angeles yet again. Every so often, I go there, and I always have a great time. In addition to visiting Laura, I always visit my second cousin, Angela, who’s become like a sister to me. And when I’m there, I drive around, familiar with some of the major places to check out, and go back to the East Coast happy.
Laura is a big reason for this. I lived in Los Angeles shortly after I graduated college, and it was a rough time for me. Like so many other people, I felt as if my world had ended when I graduated, and that now, facing such trivial things as getting a real job and paying bills, I was destined to live the rest of my life trapped in a miserable slog.
Yet there was Laura.
Laura worked at a restaurant called Jax, and was one of the few folks in Los Angeles who didn’t have a car. Consequently, I would often pick her up after work, saving her a bus ride, and a whole lot of time. We would have these great talks on the way back to her apartment, on once there, she would yet again give me guitar lessons.
The lessons didn’t take, as I didn’t yet know that six string instruments would never work out for me. It has continued to be a great regret that I didn’t know just how well the ukulele would work for me, because we would have had many music sessions that would have lasted far into the night. Alas, I can’t go back to the past, but I can smile, knowing that the guitar led to the ukulele, which means that Laura helped lay the foundation for what has become a source of musical happiness for me.
Again and again, when I think of my time in Los Angeles, I think about how miserable I was, and how my times with Laura were these bright moments that I remember to this day. Highest amongst this was the time she suggested we go to Joshua Tree National Park, and, in that wonderful way that friends can build on ideas to create memorable moments, a thought came to me.
“Why don’t I bring my drums,” I said. “Then I can just set up in the middle of the desert, and we can play.”
And that’s just what we did. I still have a vivid memory of people pulling their cars over to take pictures as we rocked out to The Smiths’ “Ask Me.”
Somewhere, I like to think, someone has one of those pictures, and is turning to someone else and saying “remember the time…”
So now, long after that miserable time in my life, I think of Los Angeles fondly, and think about how, even in our darkest hours, we find something that is then a source of happiness later on. When I walk along the Santa Monica Pier I don’t think of those grim times that I wondered where, in the name of heaven, my life was going to go. Instead, I think of walking along that pier with Laura, and thinking about how, at that moment, there was nowhere I else I wanted to be.