Sunday, June 24, 2007

State update: California

Well, I'm back from two and a half weeks in California. Although I was very busy at work, which sufficiently filled my days and cumulated in a bizarre anti-climax (kind of like the "Sopranos" finale), I had enough time to experience Los Angeles and get to know my temporary host city.

And here's what I learned: L.A. is awful. We were staying at a particularly trendy hotel, swishy and swanky to a ridiculous degree, with a chic rooftop pool and hallways that smelled like pot. Pot was officially the aroma of the trip. At first, I thought maybe the hotel used a very particular kind of carpet cleaner or something, but no, it was pot. Everywhere in the hotel. Pot, and a too-cool pool, and me. Welcome to Los Angeles.

We did a lot of people-watching, seeing girls dressed like Paris Hilton with their fake boobs perky and perhaps slightly askew, accompanied by Jersey-like guys in their uniforms of untucked button-downs and carefully distressed jeans. I felt like an utter yokel in our hotel, especially the first night, as my New York friends and I swam in the pool as the socialite types glowered and strutted around us. (I think that in an urban environment, you can either project hipness by genuinely being hip, or being familiar enough with your environment to fake it. In New York, I can fake it. In LA, I was irredeemably uncool, like I was wearing the same pair of overalls the whole time.)

We stayed in the downtown area, a desolate district of high-rise office buildings and restaurants that close early and don't open on the weekends. It's a very commuter-centric area, where one can spend 40 minutes on a Sunday morning searching for a New York Times (the sign of a true Manhattanite, according to our friend at the bookstore) before one discovers the lone Starbucks that is open. Nobody walks in LA, and nobody reads.

Good things about LA: Dodger Stadium, which is small and disheveled like a beloved old person; hiking in the San Gabriel mountains, to be in an environment utterly unlike anything back east; seeing the Hollywood sign through the haze from our office window; the variety of R&B radio stations, which let me enjoy dance hour in the purest way, the way I did in high school; the ocean breeze you can feel from the PCH; karaoke in Koreatown.

It was an interesting trip. L came to see me for a weekend, which was exactly what I needed to pull through. Not only could she laugh at the ridiculousness of it all with me and charm the hell out of my colleagues, but she brought me the books and magazines and news of our culture that is completely ignored out there. In the midst of our trendy, spare hotel, with the ironic carpet and wall art and lack of comfortable seating, I missed our little apartment with the old furniture and the plants and the street noise.

And to arrive home -- I came home to find the city in the full explosion of summertime. The leaves on the trees were thick and mature, there was warm sun and a breeze, people eating on sidewalk tables and walking in pairs or with their kids. We wandered around to bookstores and movie theaters, through parks, enjoying the afternoon light that softened into night as the streetlights flicked on to signal a new phase in the urban day. Nothing was closing, nothing was ending. For a very brief moment, the night, like the summer, seemed endless.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Professional class

I have had a really busy few weeks, but I have been conspicuously quiet about everything, blog-wise. I started working at the big ol' law firm, and the corridors of the professional world are lined with too many pikes decorated with the heads of loose-lipped bloggers for me to even think about sharing my work escapades here. But it's hard to not say anything -- my life this summer is remarkably different than it has ever been, really. I've joined the mobs of sharply-dressed twenty-something guys. Waiting for the subway today I counted ten other young men, about my age, wearing similar khaki pants and the same business-casual shirts, sans ties. We all carried umbrellas, ipods. Some had bags, I had a book. It's strange to join this throng of commuters, and I wonder if it's an avoidable part of adulthood -- I think it is a part of New York adulthood, if you've been in school for many years and are aiming for the professional class, rather than a hipsterish plastic-black-frames lifestyle, which just looks silly as people get farther from thirty. I'm taking the professional route.

Anyways, all this to say that work is going well. I feel challenged, and I'm striving to be smart, and I'm also turning on the charm and professionalism and collegiality as much as I can. Every sentence is punctuated by numerous thank yous, even when the other person and I both know that I have nothing to thank them for -- it's just good business. It's worked for me so far, at least. I've even started going to the gym early, at 6:45 am, to make up for some of the classes I'm missing, now that my workdays bleed into the evening. But usually I have time to go for a run by the river as the sun sets, or at least have a nice meal or a stroll around the block with L. It's a very different summer than I'm used to, but it is undeniably summer.

On Thursday this law firm is sending me to Los Angeles, California for a couple weeks -- I'll be back June 23rd. Wish me luck.