That famous airport scene at the end of Casablanca is none other than LAX, back in the quieter day, with an outline of a minaret-y-looking structure over the shot. Didn’t you think it really was in Morocco? Okay, maybe that was just me.
You know how when Dorothy lands in Oz, the movie goes from black and white to full color? That’s how it was for me—even though I landed at LAX with literally a hundred bucks in my pocket. Those more awful moments of life sound so romantic in retrospect, sometimes.
Life suddenly…..bloomed—in full technicolor. Hollywood! Palm trees thrill me. The air sparkles here; I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else, and by now I’ve been a lot of places. Those Art Deco buildings on Wilshire Boulevard hearkening back to the Golden Age of Hollywood make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The ’fifties-style diners with the waitresses, seemingly still from that era, feel like home. The Hollywood sign lifts my spirits even on the downest of days.
The whole town is even more beautiful at night. The streetlights have a golden glow that lights up those palm trees, and of course when you’re up in the hills, the vista of the Hollywood lights is pure exhilarating enchantment.
We’d taken a family trip to Disneyland when I was eight and my older brother was ten. Six-year-old Brian was in a wheelchair already. That was the first time we kids saw the ocean; the smell, the sparkling air, and waves lapping around my feet was practically a mystical experience for me. Years later, Kevin just remembered massive amounts of traffic and hating that Goofy laughed at him. I remembered palm trees and that mighty ocean as well as Minnie Mouse and Sleeping Beauty loving on my “oh-so beautiful hair.” They fussed and fussed and fussed over it.
That might’ve been the last time we were happy as a family, because Brian suddenly became even sicker and died not long after that. But for just a while, we were so very happy together, experiencing the captivating charm of Disneyland and Southern California.
The magic of that trip has stayed with me. Still, to this day, when I stick my feet in the sand, they tingle for a week. That didn’t happen in my backyard.
Speaking of traffic, most people’s first question might be, “What about the traffic?” What traffic? I don’t do traffic. I never have to be out in the morning rush hour, and I arrive where I need to be before the evening rush hour, even if I have to hang out in a café for a while.
We talk about traffic like it’s a living, breathing thing. And it is. It’s like a person we get to blame—“Oh, I can’t make it because of the traffic.” “Oh, I would’ve been here earlier but the traffic.” That Saturday Night Live comedy skit about the Californians had just about every conversation involve how we drive here. “Oh, I took the 405 to the 10 to La Brea….” It’s true! We do talk like that here.
But even when I drove around shedding tears while playing the love-song channel, feeling a tug on my heart as I listened to dedications from people who’d been married for thirty years, every day was a thrill. (This was before I knew to be happy for them, not resentful. Actually, I wasn’t resentful, just wistful. But wistful is not a powerful rocket booster for creating, either.) My heart expanded at every palm tree. That’s a lot of expanding! There was no place on Earth I’d rather have been. Sometimes I was miserable. Sometimes I was ecstatic. Sometimes I was both in the very same moment.
When I moved to Hollywood, I had to take informal elocution lessons to turn my long Wisconsin vowels into the shorter vowels of the transcontinental accent. Sooooo had to become so. Wiscaaaaaaaaaaansin had to become Wisconsin. We’re not quite as long as what you heard in Fargo or New in Town (that great flick with Renée Zellweger), doonchoou knooow, but we’re close. Noootice I said “long” instead of “bad.” Accents aren’t bad—they make things more interesting. Imagine if the whole country spoke the same way. For one thing, Fargo wouldn’t have been nearly so funny. But you can get more acting gigs when you can do an accent, not have an accent.
A lot of folks around here talk in a happy whine. And even if it’s happy, it’s still a whine. And it has a lot of h’s. “Hihhhhhh. Howhh hhaarrrre hyohhhhhuh? Hohhhhh, whhhhat a ghorgheous neckhhhhhlace.”
Being from solid, no-nonsense Midwestern stock, I found it hard to whine. When I really had the urge, I had Cyn to whine to….but ours was high-level, existential whining. Of course.
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