Do you remember when we talked about what colors represent New York?”
It was muggy gray and faded blue, right?” I said.
What colors do you think represent Los Angeles?”
It would have to be musty orange, sun-bleached green, and electric blue.”
I said my goodbyes and hung up the phone. Red and gray paint stained the sky; smoke billowed around Pasadena. My grandfather was driving his car up never-ending twists of snaking road. Mountain air, tainted with the smell of burning brush, splashed into my face as we climbed up higher. The entire city of Los Angeles spread out before us; even the hazy outline of Fresno could be seen in the distance. The view was overwhelming but I felt oddly at peace. The past three weeks in Los Angeles were perhaps the most transformative, enlightening, and energetic of my life.
Sailing past traffic on the San Diego freeway towards West Hollywood, a rare feeling of liberation comes over me. The landscape of Los Angeles is different from New York; the familiar crowded subway lines, faint stench in the air, and frequent summer rains are replaced by clean stretches of freeway, invigorating ocean breeze, and annual wildfires. My two cousins, Los Angeles natives for the past 15 years, are taking me out. We merge onto the Hollywood Freeway; the lights and crowds are reminiscent of Midtown Manhattan at night, but they possess a more calming and inviting quality. The environment is much more relaxed and social; the smells, humidity, and enveloping hordes of tourists are gone. West Hollywood feels like a place you can live and thrive in. We walk to the Aroma CafÃ© on Sunset Boulevard; the cafÃ© is in many ways a microcosm of Los Angeles culture. Most of the waitresses are aspiring screenwriters or actresses. The tables are arranged in an almost clique formation: rich Beverly Hills housewives at one, hyper UCLA students at another, and laid-back teens from the Valley at yet another. We soon headed to the Santa Monica pier and promenade; one of the things most New Yorkers do not get to see on a regular basis is the beach at night. The moon glinting off the calm Pacific waters, the lights of the promenade and amusement park on the pier not too far away: the moment was more than picturesque. It was cleansing and truly filled me with content.
Living in Los Angeles offers a balanced lifestyle; my time there was spent equally among adventures into the city and adventures into nature. My grandfather and I drove an hour and a half north of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, a small city with an almost Mediterranean feel. Growing up in one of the most crowded cities in the world, I found it odd to see small cottages and quaint villages nestled in the foothills of mountains. The epic mountains, covered with knotted brush and cavernous boulders, offered perspective and encouraged thought. We passed the quaint town of Solvang, picking up some authentic Dutch fudge before leaving. The Santa Ynez Mountains welcome us in; sun breaks through the wet canopy on the hike up to the Nojoqui Falls. The cool waters trickling down are like the cars on the San Diego Freeway, maneuvering through the mossy falls. The falls are nature’s canvas, the water and foliage carving into the rock, creating layers of history. This is a place where you can sit for hours, absorb your surroundings, and think about where you are going and where you have been.
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