What's in a Neighbourhood?
I’ve been thinking about neighbourhoods these past few days. We’ve lived in a fair few during our years in America so far; settling into a new one always takes me some time. Once the initial excitement is over I become tortoise-like in my behaviour for a while, withdrawing into my shell and peeking out occasionally as I move around the unfamiliar environment establishing points of connection.
We’ve been in our part of Brentwood a little over a year now. Its unobtrusive charms have crept up on me. Low key and laid back, it’s a place of quiet tree lined streets, low rise apartment blocks and lots and lots of doggies of all shapes, sizes and colors. Whether you’re stopping to shoot the breeze with a fellow parent of a canine or sharing the running track around the Brentwood Country Club, there’s a very real sense of community in the air and we can see ourselves transitioning from renters to owners.
For me, our neighbourhood and its environs mirror the reasons why Los Angeles captured my imagination in the first place. Sandwiched between the bustling refinement of San Vicente Boulevard, with its array of boutiques and eateries, and the grit of Wilshire Boulevard it echoes the contrasts of the city itself where palm trees and the ocean coexist with the majestic complexity of the freeway ecosystem. Unlike most people I know, I love the freeways that surround, divide and connect Los Angeles.
We enjoyed an evening of such contrasts yesterday. The weather is wonderful here; autumnal being the very last word one would use to describe it. We spent time walking barefoot by the ocean as the sun began to draw down behind the silvery water. It was a swift drive from there to one of our favorite local restaurants Bandera on Wilshire. I was struck, the first time we visited the place, by just how different it is from its glossier Corona Del Mar location which draws a significantly different crowd. From the big apple sculpture that sits in the reception area to the wonderful jazz duo who play there, this Los Angeles venue unfailingly ushers in the guest of Manhattan and it’s as if I see the two cities sitting at the bar together, heads bent as they chuckle over some private amusement and a whiskey or two.
We headed out into the night much later that evening and for a moment, just an instant really, with a Picassian sleight of hand, my eyes deceived me, and the sky-rise vista of Manhattan glittered in the sky. I blinked and we were back on Wilshire and Barrington with the solitary tower blocks there winking owlishly back at me. As we drove home I mentioned to my husband that it was time to plan our next visit to the city who never lets me escape for too long.