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August 23, 2011


Even the billboards are optimistic.

I had only been in California a few years when I learned about the trees dying at Mammoth mountain. I would comb through wire reports and clips in the newsroom, back then I was still working at the Daily News and had access to the file library. The trees near Horseshoe Lake were turning brown and dry and dying from excessive carbon dioxide seeping up from the volcano. I would copy the reports and stuff the clips in a folder that I kept in my desk. For later, I would think.

One report claimed that if the volcano erupted it would likely flow over the California Aqueduct and cut off the water supply to Los Angeles. I didn't worry about this or find it anxiety-producing, I was fascinated by the volcano, its possibilities. I had grown up with tornadoes and hurricanes and tidal surge, but a volcano was exotic and surreal. I became very interested in the intrusion of magma, I began memorizing facts about the Long Valley Caldera. I wondered what it would be like to abandon newspaper and go back to school, apply for a job at the USGS, monitor tree kill.

Later, when I was engaged to be married (and still working at the Daily News) I started getting into those inner-city-school teacher movies, like the one with Coolio and Michelle Pfieffer. And of course Stand & Deliver. I had a few friends from college doing Teach For America and one day I woke up convinced I could be a teacher and I had this idea I'd be in a classroom really educating and helping and like, I would be inspiring. I would make a difference. Later I thought maybe I should get headshots and try my hand at commercials.

There's something about this city that makes you want to wake up and be a new version of yourself every day. You honestly believe you're going to get a callback or option a script or rally the janitor's union or land a job assisting A Big Hollywood Star or finally make it. But it's anonymous enough here that it also feels possible to quit your life and study carbon dioxide levels at a crater in the mountains.

Los Angeles is where anything can happen. After a while you kind of believe anything can happen to you, too. The people who complain about the quick superficiality of this city never look just below the surface and see its real optimism. If you want to live in the past this is not your city, we've already paved over that and put up a Sephora there. But if you want to re-invent your life, this is the perfect place to do it. You can be just about anything you want to be in Los Angeles.

Posted by laurie at August 23, 2011 9:34 AM