The Urban Sherpa - a blog by Christopher DeWan

(can't tell the baby from the bathwater...)

Read Work and Other Essays, a collection of nonfiction by Christopher DeWan.

Postcards from the West rating=3

File under: Other Places

Dear Rxxxxxx,

From the air, flying into LAX, the city is so thick with smog it's like someone has spread a layer of peanut butter across the entire valley.

You know that feeling of homecoming, when you return to see a prodigal city's skyline—that surge of excitement?

I didn't feel that.

* * *

Dear Sxxxxx,

Today I found a Peet's Coffee. I know you've said you miss having one around, so I knew you'd be excited to find out there was one so close to you. And that's when I realized it wasn't close. It was quite far. Because you are in New York, but I was visiting Los Angeles.

I think maybe I sort the world into "The Place I Live" and "Everywhere Else."

* * *

Dear Rxxxxx,

It's my third day here and I don't know what to do. Or I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I have this feeling I should wake up with some grand "To Do" list of all the things I want to accomplish during my short time here, and if I don't, then I'm squandering my vacation.

But when I start planning, I realize it's work. It's the opposite of vacation. I'm working. I should be relaxing.

Now I'm trying to relax, and I get the sense I'm not very good at it: I keep thinking, if I don't relax now, then I'll have wasted this great opportunity. So I try harder to relax. But it's making me tense.

"You can't look for serendipity, you silly."

* * *

Dear Jxx,

On my way to your house, I zip through shortcuts I thought I'd long forgotten. I'm so familiar with this town. I have familiarity with it, but no sense of kinship, and no sense of home. With Boston, I feel a sense of kinship, but no familiarity. And no home.

I don't think it ever occurred to me to make these distinctions...

* * *

Dear Mxxxx,

"What are you up to these days?" you ask.

"You know," I answer.

But you don't know. Even I don't know.

"It's like my life is a Rocky movie, and right now I'm in the training sequence. But I don't know what I'm training for."

You look confused. "So you're good?"

Yeah. I'm good. Whatever.

* * *

Dear Bxxxxx,

You know how they say the camera adds fifteen pounds? I'm starting to think it's not the camera; it's L.A. that adds the fifteen pounds. I've felt obsese since I got here.

* * *

Dear Axxxxxxxxx,

I could never admit that I don't like traveling. It would be like saying I don't like stimulus, I don't like interesting things, I don't like to be challenged. Like saying I'm a homebody. Like saying I don't like living life.

But I am starting to wonder.

* * *

Dear Cxxxx,

The rain in L.A. is a blessing: it washes the grime out of the air. The city, most of the time cast in a brownish hue, suddenly shines with blues and greens—bright saturated colors. After the rain, against all odds, L.A. is beautiful. The day I leave is one of these days.

The jet's flight path takes it west over the ocean, the ocean rolling on westward forever. I look down at the undescribable hugeness of it. There are words but none are good enough. The ocean rolls on westward forever, implacable, soothing, monstrous, breathtaking, impossible, forever, forever.

The plane hooks around, comes back over the land, over the city of Los Angeles. You know that feeling, that surge in your heart, when you look down at a city's familiar skyline and break out into a smile? Sometimes I wonder if that's what we mean when we say "home"...