Love is the Message

I can’t tell you how much I love Los Angeles.

— Jonathan Gold

We were standing in the non-fiction, cultural studies aisle of Book Star on Ventura Boulevard when a woman came around the corner and sternly said, “No laughing!” We blushed and then, she smiled.

“Sometimes when I do that, it’s to teenage couples that are smooching in the stacks,” she explained. I revealed that just before we had been looking at “adult books” like 101 Sex Positions and, yes, laughing like school children that were getting away with something.

“Oh, I work in the children’s section so I can’t help you if you want more of those kinds of books but remember, ‘No Laughing!”

It was the first of a few random conversations with Angelenos on our Saturday roaming the Valley. We chatted with an older real estate agent who took advantage of us slowly perusing the listings on her agency window to give us a card and inform us of the merits of buying in Burbank.

A homeless man interrupted our conversation on his way to Starbucks—probably for some complimentary AC, water, and electricity—to tell her that her expressive hands meant she was probably brilliant, just like him. It wasn’t lost on me the irony of us discussing nearly million dollar listings while so many of our fellow citizens are living on the streets.

But, this is Los Angeles.

We got back in our car and drove around debating where to eat. Cascabel or Sushi Yuzu? Was the Hungry Crowd open? Did Take a Bao still exist (no)? We settled on Forman’s Tavern after surveying our options in Toluca Lake, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and care of the bar food and cocktails at this spot not likely on anyone’s “Best of LA” lists. But, Forman’s reflects the city’s food culture sensibilities: if you’re going to make it, make it well, and make it your own.

Back at home, we learned of Jonathan Gold’s unexpected death while an unrelated car chase—the California staple—was happening at the same time. The chase ended with a hostage situation in a grocery store frequented by friends and acquaintances and three women injured or dead at the hands of a young man with a gun. The chase and violence make no sense. The death of Mr. Gold, a man whose entire purpose seemed to be in explaining and translating LA through its food and the people who make and consume it, is a bitter pill to swallow at such a moment in time.

We decided right then to watch City of Gold, the award-winning documentary about the Pulitzer-prize winning restaurant critic and this beautiful city that made him. Released in 2015, in some ways it feels like a loving eulogy to him three years before his passing. It’s filled with people we know: ambassadors and emissaries of this place we call home, and it feels like how I think of LA and that Gold sought to convey with everything he wrote.

LA is physically enormous, spread out across miles and miles of land, but we’re mostly just a bunch of neighborhoods stitched together, ethnically diverse and often moving to the same rhythm. It feels frictionless to know many of the people that make the city go but hard to feel like you ever truly know the city at all. Know and love your neighborhood and then leave it.  There are so many cultures, so many hopes and dreams, so many transplants, and so much change that you’ll never even get close to wrapping your hands around this city unless you go out and explore.

Today, I don’t want to wrap my hands around Los Angeles; I want to hug it.

I’m grateful for this place and the people in it.

And you.

Yes, you.

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