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Signs and sprawl: Back in Los Angeles

August 30, 2011 by Kaitlin

Welp, a couple plane rides and a 1,400 mile road trip later, I’m back in LA. To prove it, here’s the Hollywood sign as seen (OK, there’s some zoom involved here) from our Echo Park porch. Granted, me saying I can see Hollywood is a little like Sarah Palin saying she can see Russia. Yeah, it’s there, but that realm of LA is pretty far-removed from where I function.

Mmm, Hollywood and smog

Reporting in LA, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on unique parts of the city, and every so often I’ll stumble across something in the periphery of working on a story that makes me think, “Now there’s a good insider tip!” But then I remember that knowing which kind of burrito to order from the Compton Courthouse cafeteria (one of them is actually good, I promise!) is not the kind of info most Angelinos or visitors seek. But I’m alright with that.

I was reminded of the scope of LA sprawl and the diversity it creates while visiting former Cape Town roommate Mary Beth in Marina del Ray, 20 miles across town. Even with no traffic, it’s a bit of a trek. She lives in this great community right by the water that has this whole nautical resort theme going on—very different than the hipster/taco truck/discount store mash-up that pervades Echo Park. Funny that now that we’re back in the States but no longer living together, it feels like we’re functioning on separate continents.

In addition to getting back in the habit of dealing with traffic, parking meters, and those mysterious sinus headaches that always seem to appear the first couple weeks I’m back in LA, it’s weird to be going back to classes after working full-time for three months. Instead of kicking it with a dedicated team plotting a coherent piece every week, my life feels disjointed—a reading assignment here, a research paper there, a sprinkle of story pitches, and oh, by the way, get to know the 45 first-year students because you’re in a class with all of them at once.

I know it’ll be better once I fall into my routine for the semester. But right now, my rhythm is still off. I went to Trader Joe’s first thing this morning, thinking it would be relatively tame early on a Monday morning. Wrong. It was packed as always, this time with an uncanny number of pregnant women. And you thought it was tough to navigate a cart in there before. Now it was like beware the bellies.

But every so often an LA convenience collides with a Cape Town memory and happiness ensues. Thanks to my infinitely cool housemate, I learned that Urth Caffe has an iced rooibos tea latte thingy good enough to make you temporarily forget your obligations, business and social alike. I’m gonna need to go back for another hit.

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