There Are Places I Remember
We’ve said goodbye to family for now and once again an ocean separates us. I was coming back from the airport a few days ago and the late afternoon traffic dictated that I avoid the freeway. I drove towards home along one of my favorite stretches of road which takes you through Mar Vista, across Santa Monica and eventually meanders into Brentwood. At a certain point, just after you cross Rose Avenue and before you get to Ocean Park Boulevard, there’s a lovely view of the mountains. If the sky is blue above, the white buildings of the Getty nestled in the foot hills, square and simple with that modern style that always says LA to me, are wonderful to see.
I’m fascinated by places, the way in which we inhabit them and how one location can in fact play many different roles for us. I used to think that it was simply because we’ve moved around quite a bit these past few years but I was chatting with my son, in the car the other day, and this topic has been on my mind ever since. I think there’s more to it.
When we lived in New York and even before that, we would visit Los Angeles. My father has been teaching here since 2006 and so we would always come to stay. Los Angeles was initially associated with pure vacation for all of us; a place of warmth and freedom from which we would return with heavy hearts to home-whether that be New York or London. Conversely our first visit to New York, back in 2009 was our only vacation visit. It was a time of unrepeatable excitement but even then it was with a view to settling down and making a home. When we returned in that excruciating heat of a fully charged Manhattan summer we got right down to living; brass tacks and all. We lived with a glamour that was spliced with grit from the get go.
Now that we have swopped cities and Los Angeles has become home our initial memories of carefree sunshine are overlaid by the experience of daily living; the school run, grocery shopping, walking the dog. Then every so often a situation arises and home becomes holiday once again; almost as if one had awoken from one dream into another. I was sitting on the terrace at Loews hotel in Santa Monica on the final afternoon of my brother’s stay last week. The sun was bright, a gentle breeze was blowing and the ocean glistened ethereally. My daughter and nephew bent their heads together over some piece of mischief as we adults watched and I felt it; that tilt shift; the roles had changed and the scenery was different, as if from another world.
And so I wonder, as I sit here in our apartment this evening, whether the imprint of our initial experience of a place is so powerful that it can never be fully be overcome. Perhaps Los Angeles the holiday town will always arise whenever there is space because that is, in fact, what I actually expect to see.