The last time I moved to California I was twenty-four years old. I'd been living in Manhattan's East Village for four years, finishing my BA at the New School and bartending in Union Square. I desperately did not want to leave New York.
I had an internship at Time Out New York magazine and had just been asked to apply for a job there. I had a group of friends that it had taken a surprisingly long time to make. I was irrvocably in love with New York, with the buildings and the streams of people flowing up and down the sidewalks, with the artists and the street people, the pampered patrons of the restaurant I worked in, and the motley group of waitstaff that I made fun of them with.
At age twenty-four I drank too much on a regular basis. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and I was tall and thin and a little defensive most of the time. I missed my mother all the time. She had been gone for six years, a period of time long enough for the young girl I had been when she was alive to completely dissolve into a lonely and anxious young woman who wasn't quite sure of who she was supposed to be.
I knew that I did not want to leave New York. All my life, growing up in Atlanta and in Florida, I'd had this ache to be somewhere else. But for the first time in my life, living in New York City, there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
But the whole time I'd been in New York, my father had been living by himself in Southern California. After my mother died he had moved to Garden Grove, a little town about 45 minutes south of Los Angeles, and ever since then he'd been not-so-patiently waiting for me to join him on the West Coast. His health had begun to deteriorate rapidly and we both knew he couldn't be alone much longer. Once I graduate, Dad. I'll move then. I told him that every time I went out to visit, letting him drive me around the strange California landscape, knowing he was hoping I'd fall just as in love with it as I was with New York.
At the time I thought that was impossible, but then I realized that I was more in love with my dad than any place I'd ever been, and I knew that our time together was running out.
I left New York on a bright hot day in late June and made it to Los Angeles the day after the 4th of July. I'd never seen my father so happy. He was beaming. He wasn't alone anymore. I couldn't help but smile with him.
I spent the next year getting to know Southern California, and trying not to miss New York. I lived in a beautiful old apartment in Hollywood, and worked a series of odd writing jobs where I got to know LA in its true form. I also spent seemingly endless amounts of time with my father, taking him to doctors appointments and visiting him in the hospital every day when he got really sick. Eventually I left LA to move into his condo with him where he died one warm August evening, barely a year after I had arrived in California.
I had every opportunity to move back to New York after he was gone, and I almost did a hundred times. Instead I moved to Venice and found a little apartment on the canals where ducks quacked softly in the dusk air and bougainvilla draped itself along little white bridges.
I fell in love with Los Angeles there. With the great, rolling Pacific Ocean, with the salty air and the swaying palm trees. With the barefoot surfers and the morning sea mist. With the eclectic artists and the hipster writers, with the group of friends who quickly became my family. It was more than that too. It was something about the light and the air, about the feeling of possibility shimmering in the morning air.
And so when I fell in love once more, this time with Greg, I left Los Angeles knowing that maybe one day I would come back.