Ode to LA, written during the pandemic

This article was first featured in AAA World Magazine print in September 2020.

By Melissa Curtin

Pelicans soar along the water line, and dolphins follow me down the beach. I admire a pack of surfers soaring and swiveling as the waves carry them home, or at least to Malibu Pier. Sixty years ago, fictional surfer girl, Gidget, rode these same waves in a movie. I bet she felt free—like me.

Born a Connecticut Yankee and after a decade of living in Washington, DC, I arrived in Los Angeles 13 years ago and fell in love. Those first few years, I never wanted to set foot inside, afraid the sunlight wouldn’t return. At my home in Hollywood Hills, lemons grow in the yard, and the sunrise reflects in my bathroom mirror. In one direction, I gaze at snowcapped mountains and, in the other, the hazy twinkle of the Pacific Ocean. The sky is bluer than any I have ever known.

Here in this sprawling city of 4 million, world trends begin, and entertainment and tech ideas sprout. There’s a sense of possibility without limits. In LA, you can be anyone.

Why do I love LA? Let me count my memories.

Painted art murals sweep blocks and hug storefronts on Melrose Avenue, where visitors pose against backdrops of pink walls and angel wings. Jasmine intoxicates me in Beverly Hills as my reflection peers back from the hood of an Italian sports car. Tiny dogs held by buff owners yap at me as I climb up Runyon Canyon for city views. On a street corner, fresh tacos await.

In Koreatown, I duck into a booth for a communal barbecue of bulgogi, short ribs, pork belly, and a smattering of small dishes. I leave smelling like sizzling meats and kimchi but can’t resist popping into a few spots for Taiwanese, Filipino, and Japanese treats. I’m hooked not only by Koreatown’s food but also on its late-night karaoke lounges and its day spas. The dense streets of eclectic urbanity, neon signs, and architectural styles remind me of the area’s history. I bet those who came before felt a sense of community and intrigue—like me.

In liquid blackness, my friends and I spiral up in our car to the lawn at Griffith Park for the chance to see Mars through one of the observatory’s outdoor telescopes. Below, the city lights twinkle like constellations. The urban park comprises more than 4,000 acres of mostly undeveloped land, which remains virtually unchanged from the days when Native American villages occupied the area’s lower slopes. I bet those early inhabitants looked out across this land and felt awe—like me.

My girlfriends and I leave the Hollywood Bowl laughing arm in arm, the tunes humming in our minds and a smoke halo from the fireworks still hanging over the canyon. Sizzling onion sausages from a street cart vendor taunt me, making it impossible not to stop for a bite. Since 1922, audiences have appreciated the voices and sounds in nature’s amphitheater. I bet they felt giddy—like me.

There’s not a soul in sight at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the middle of a moonlit night.

My dog pulls me through the grounds of the largest art museum in the Western U.S., passing among 200 clustered streetlamps by artist Chris Burden. On Museum Row, I cautiously watch the ground as I try not to step on the bubbling “tar” that has seeped up since the 1800s. This close to the La Brea Tar Pits, the pungent smell reminds me of the past, when asphalt mining operations occurred here. I’ll bet those miners felt excited and curious—like me. 

Memories tug especially hard during this time of pandemic and protests. Yet even now, I know that visionaries and creatives, entertainers and cooks, immigrants and surfers still flock to LA, and they still continue to dream.

A city well lived, a city well loved.

A place of inspiration,

An ongoing romance,

Los Angeles is a city for everyone.

This is LA.


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