As a lifelong New Yorker, I was supposed to hate L.A. I was supposed to begrudge the vapid, mindless dummies who make the city an endless pit of despair, where wannabe actors go to serve cocktails and useless “garbage people” (see Kris Jenner, all The Bachelors) get milkshakes named after them. The sun is always shining in L.A., but that’s because, like its residents, it doesn’t really have the verisimilitude to maybe channel something more affective now and then, like an afternoon drizzle or a starry sky. Or so I thought.
But guess what? I was wrong. I liked L.A! A lot! Not Randy Newman-style (he “ loves” L.A.), but I wouldn’t necessarily be unhappy living there. Aside from the traffic (which doesn’t phase me because you can listen to your own music full blast and, also, TEMPERATURE CONTROL), I thought it was perfectly lovely.
The Santa Monica Pier is charming. The palm trees are pretty. Driving at night makes me feel like I’m in the safest part of Grand Theft Auto. And, at Kitson, I bought straws that come with little balls of chocolate inside of them, so that when you sip, your milk is transformed (which gives my sweet tooth a boner, which is actually more of a possibility than you could have imagined).
My favorite part of the whole trip? Pasadena, which isn’t technically LA Proper, but is basically the city’s mom, whom all your friends think is the best because she is funny and dresses well and was cool with growing her hair out after 50 (and, honestly, it looks great).
Unapologetically rich, sparkling clean, and obnoxiously Caucasian, the wealthy suburb felt to me like Disney World furnished by West Elm, or a suburban oasis where the houses are pristine and manicured, and mornings are spent with your hands clasped tightly around a hot mug of farm-to-table, locally sourced Kuna java that you bought at Whole Foods. After you drove there in your Prius. The one that smells like new car, even though it’s two years old, because you’re so on top of your shit.
What I’m getting at here is that Pasadena seems like a yuppie’s dream. And although I’m not a yuppie, I do covet that lifestyle. That, to me, is the California Dream: to dress like a modern-day version of Ken Olin on thirtysomething, and to have any of the houses featured in any Nancy Meyers movie -- although, if I get to choose, I’ll take Meryl Streep’s house in "It’s Complicated," please (thank you).
As a matter of fact, we visited the home of a friend’s parents, and I was in awe. Cathedral ceilings? Butler’s quarters, whatever that is? A rolling hill in big (but not too big) backyard, all beneath a historic-looking tree lined with -- gasp -- tea lights? Standing at the foot of the hill in the backyard (by the picnic table because obviously), I clutched my chest, feeling more than ever like I was Diane Keaton in "Something’s Gotta Give" (even though she was in The Hamptons, but rich people all live in similar-looking places, anyway).
As it turned out, there was a reason I felt like it was high time to finally start dressing like a “snappy penguin:” Nancy Meyers, herself, had toured that very house as Meryl Streep’s home base in "It’s Complicated!"
To think: this was the very couch upon which Rita Wilson could have tucked her feet behind her butt, cupping a glass of Pinot and giggling about Meryl Streep’s zany, sexy midlife crisis! And right over there, on the granite countertop, Mary Kay Place might have watched Meryl roll fresh, farm-to-table apple turnover for her fancy French bakery, where she drops by roughly once every two weeks to collect her money and get some flour on her nose. All this could have happened RIGHT HERE!
Maybe Randy Newman was right: Dreams really do come true in California. Well, actually, Randy Newman didn’t say that. Did Gallagher say that? Oh no, he said “California is full of fruits and nuts.” Got it, Gallagher. Who said, “You can never go home again”? Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz? Phantom Planet? That can’t be right.
I’m making up my own new phrase: “California, best land of opportunity for impersonating Diane Keaton in a white turtleneck! Cathedral ceilings, you guys!” Yeah, that’s the ticket. Watch out, world, I’m going to Pasadena!