How to Be in Love in Los Angeles

by Jessica Brookman in ,


Hey assholes, remember when Tennyson wrote that it was better to have loved and crashed and burned than to have been a pussy all alone in your studio apartment? I might have paraphrased some of that. For that, I am sorry. But I refuse to apologize for the sentiment. 

A few days ago, I was trolling YouTube for some audiovisual inspiration and I stumbled on this short film produced by Oliver Peoples set to Brindo by Devendra Banhart. It served its purpose, but as I realized where it was filmed -- John Lautner's Rainbow House in Nichols Canyon -- it also triggered a surge of nostalgia. Or oxytocin. 

As the first in two etymology lessons today, the word brindo is spanish for toast, as in the kind you make with champagne. The following is a story about living in Los Angeles. It is a story about french new wave film, mid-century modern architecture, and the hollywood hills. It's a story about the warm, golden light of long afternoons. 

Needless to say, it's also a story about love. 

xoxo, Jessa.

This is a toast to love; a love so rare.

I am sitting across the table from him and day-dreaming about the day before and the spring air. He interrupts me, "So, I'm going to see you in New York?"

Yes, I say. Then, I make a comment about it being my town. And, as if I hadn't already acknowledged that statement to be the fib that it was, I am met with an eye roll. Plus, this is Silverlake. Being indignant about the various neighborhoods of Brooklyn in which you've lived is heavily frowned upon. 


Anyway, what's true is that I grew up in Connecticut. I did spend much of my 20s on a rubber band, though, snapping back to the city, my city, New York. I was usually broke, but always undeterred; New York City could dole out abuse after abuse. I'd return to her each time without even threatening to call the cops. 

Another MTA fair hike? Paid. Filthy streets and despicable humidity? Suffered. Dodging yupster-lite pedestrians on the Pulaski Bridge?? Call it exercise, commuting, multi-tasking. What I wasn't born, I became. And, back then, I was a fucking New Yorker. 

But something changed between then and now. At some point, I asked for a trial separation. "New York, I love you, but I need to see other cities right now" turned into me calling New York from a payphone on US 90 outside of Reno, frantically telling her she could keep the furniture but that I wasn't coming back. At a certain point, New York set me on fire and it was time to leave before the house burned down. 

And truthfully, I've lost my edge since moving to California. I've said this before, but I've always felt torn between the coasts. Nostalgic for places that I am not. Nostalgia comes from the greek nostos and algos. Meant to signal a sort of homesickness for a time and space that no longer exists, its meaning grew out of the feeling soldiers had after returning from war only to find their homes and themselves changed. Underneath that, there's the assumption that, once you officially leave a moment, you can never return to it. The place itself endures, sure. This is true of New York City, particularly. When you decide to leave, you leave that particular version of the city -- and yourself -- forever. 

But the end of a moment and the beginning of the next isn't always as clear as leaving one city behind for a new one. 

No, sometimes you're just leaving behind an entire moment in your life. Leaving New York to live anywhere else is like this. So is starting over in the same cityBy now, I've lived in Los Angeles for nearly 18 months. But, I have moved to Silverlake twice. In between then and now, I was in the Hollywood Hills. It was summer. I was in love. 

It was never going to last. We fought all the time. We fought about where the apartment spare key was and when to go hiking. We fought about bigger things, too. We fucking fought a lot. This was the New Yorkers in us. We had met in Los Angeles after moving from the same Brooklyn neighborhood. 

And, we were fittingly stubborn. We could be real assholes. But there were a few things we never fought about. For example, we agreed that the ingredients to a perfect Sunday afternoon were a pool, the sun, some coffee and The New York Times. We also agreed that suffering the dingier parts of living in Los Angeles could be rationalized by exceptional sushi and the mid-century modern architecture of the Hollywood Hills. Finally, we agreed on the fact that, since we loved each other, it would be great if we could just fucking get along.

Naturally, we tried. We really did. We went for it. And, one late-spring evening, I found myself moving into a newly purchased piece of the Hollywood Hills. It was a lot closer to Mulholland Drive than the strip in terms of elevation, let's say. 

But, of course, everyone knows how this one ends. We crashed and burned. I moved back to Silverlake by fall. It was brutal and ugly. But, I regret nothing. 

The months following would have made wonderful material for a greatly fucked-up Palahniuk novel. But eventually, hating each other got tiresome. And several months -- and tons of therapy -- later, it was easier to just apologize for having been such assholes to each other. That made it easier to remember that there were actual reasons we fell in love with each other in the first place, even though it was never built to last. Even though that moment has passed. 

Since then, we are becoming friends who occasionally meet up to hike or eat sushi or talk about design and architecture. Afterwards, we go home to opposite sides of town; to the new versions of this city we've built since last summer. We are starting over in the same place, but as slightly changed versions of ourselves. It's hard not to toast to a moment that teaches you something essential about yourself without maiming or killing you in the process.


So, these days, I am on my second life in Silverlake. Much has changed. What is clear is that I've had to leave everywhere I've ever been in order to be sitting in this chair right now outside a coffee shop in Silverlake, having a casual conversation about going back to New York City. 

And all that seems like a small price to pay for some quality time in the Rainbow House. Don't you think? 

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PS:This piece also appears as part of a two-part series with Chris Backley on moving to a new city. Today is She: CT to LA. to CT. Chris's part, He: LA to CT, will go up tomorrow. If you want to get a headstart, you can visit his site or read his pieces on Thought Catalog