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July 7, 2006

Por amarte así

In a city of eleventy million people it's easy to be anonymous. It is, in fact, one of the main draws of The Big City: you can leave behind the small town you grew up in ("population 200, including cows and chickens...") and live here with neighbors you never see or talk to, glide through the grocery store without having to chitchat with the person you sat next to in 4th grade and later dated his brother who went on to play ball at Auburn and then got a knee injury, and oh have you heard from the so-and-so boy lately?

You can be anonymous, can wear your oversized sunglasses and pretend to be a washed-up child star or a Very Important Businessman but I came here and somehow small-townified my life (you can take the girl out of the south, but not the south out of the girl... it's stuck to her permanently through all the fried foods of her youth) and I moved to a neighborhood where my neighbors are kissing cousins, literally, and I know the names and backstories of almost everyone I see regularly which of course includes the entire staff of both 7-11s in my sphere of influence.

(At the BBQ I hosted a few weeks ago, Karman was going to make a 7-11 run and was taking orders. "Amber," I said, "you want anything from the 7-11?" She laughed, "What would a party at your house be without a late-night trip to 7-11?")

This morning, I got in my Jeep and stopped at my "morning" 7-11 (Oh, ya'll, the more I change the more I stay the same, and so I still do a fair amount of my shopping at the corner convenience store, I cannot help myself.) Rajit, the friendly owner, greeted me with more enthusiasm than usual. The man was practically jumping up and down.

"OH! Misslaurie, I do not have your phone number but to call because we have very exciting news, flavor flavor!"

Obviously, I had not had my coffee yet, so who knows what I was hearing or he was saying, and I looked closely at the coffee pots to determine which new flavor flavor I was supposed to sample.

"Cinnamon...?" I asked, hoping I was right.

"Yes, very good, cinnamon is fresh but we have flavor flavor in here! Just last night! I show you!"

And he produced a strip of receipt paper, signed by one Flava Flav, proof positive of a star sighting in my very own 7-11, very exciting. And I left with my coffee and got in my Jeep and headed East into downtown (or "South" because sometimes the 101 signs say East, and sometimes they say "South" but you're all the same stuck in morning traffic and heading "over the hill.") The hills in question were barely visible in the morning amber air, bright and soft yet no matter how poetic you phrase it, still decidedly brownish. "It's not smog," just ask any Angeleno. They (we) are very defensive when asked. "It's not smog, it's haze."

In front of me is a guy in a battered Toyota truck with a bumper sticker that says, "Soy Chapin y que?" To my left is a Channel 7 news van, off to some exciting story or another and advertising the Doppler radar that never, ever shows smog, to my right a guy with an expensive haircut in a gorgeous black mercedes convertible (top down, but all the windows rolled up) talking on a cell phone, gesturing between takes of Starbucks.

And so it occurred to me that this is a very optimistic city, maybe the most optimistic city on earth. You can come here and make all your dreams come true. You can write a screenplay or work at 7-11 until you finally own three franchises of your own and send your daughter (age 18, very pretty with glossy black hair from the pictures he showed me) to USC to study engineering, or you can work at a high-powered law firm with glass hallways, or mow lawns for more money in one month than you might make in six months back home, or drive a Jeep into downtown with a sappy Spanish love song (Christian Castro) playing loudly enough for everyone to hear, but nobody pays you any attention because you could be anyone, anyone at all, and even Flava Flav shops where you shop.

And it's not smog, you know. It really is haze. It'll burn off later this afternoon.

Posted by laurie at July 7, 2006 9:08 AM