Whenever I hear people complain about Los Angeles, I can’t help but think they’ve never seen its terrain through the eyes of a child. Having grown up here and having also chosen to start a family in the City of Angels, I’m assured of its magical qualities, especially because my children, in angelic splendor, remind me so.
When I see traffic, they see tiny flowers. Growing on the median, breaking through the hard cement, tenacious petals waving hello in the breeze.
When I see unwavering warm weather, they see endless summers, flip flops, and snow cones in November, a night swim for an afterschool treat.
When I see far too spread a part stretches of the city, they see coastal views of the setting sun or the Hollywood sign atop the Santa Monica Mountains.
Navigating the roads from the backseat of my Kia, reveal a kaleidoscope of magnificent colors, delicious smells and assorted sounds for my children to uncover.
When they see a construction zone, I see the orange glow of a parent’s grind, punching a clock, turning the hands of time into folded palms and bedtime prayers for their little Angelenos.
When they hear car speakers blasting so loud that their tiny feet and swaying car seats move in a musical jamboree, I hear a radio rewind of the Watts Prophets, West Coast Hip Hop, G-funk and that wanna-be-b-girl in me. Friday nights at the Good Life Café, schoolgirl crushes cemented by a Fatburger and a meticulously made mix-tape.
When they see a menu written in a different language, I see a world in one city, a recipe for humanity. And for my picky eater son, unwilling to flex his palate, I see a strong willed temperament that will one day serve him well. In the meanwhile, the rest of us can have Thai on Tuesday, Ethiopian on Thursday and Soul Food on Sunday all in a span of a few city blocks.
When I hear people complain about Los Angeles, I want to tell them to look closer, listen longer, inhale stronger. I want to tell them about the charm amidst the concrete and the glory born about from the city’s grit. I want to tell them that I know how exhausting it can be to edify children in a society fixated on such stringent measures of success. I want to tell them that the burden of parental anxiety can appear greater in a city like Los Angeles, but I want to assure them appearances can be deceiving. I want to tell them about love, for love in LA can be greater too. After all, I was willing to drive North past the Getty when I was first dating my husband and for an LA girl that certainly meant he was the one. And the day my eight-year old directed a family friend all the way to our home, while offering sage advice on how to avoid the 405, I knew I had done something right. Put a check in the win column for my effective parenting. Put that on a brag worthy bumper sticker.
When I hear the name Los Angeles, I know it is more than the city where I live. The soul of the city subsists and thrives within me. It is both a determined parent and at times an unruly child; sometimes wild, oft brazen, shining bright. Don’t bother trying to tame this city and don’t bother trying to change it. Instead, give in, acquiesce to its wonder, and when you do, you might discover, Los Angeles is more than the landscape of your village; it is the fervently beating heart of it too.
Photo by Kevin Krejci