Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lost in the City of Angels

From Paul

VICE STRIKES OUT: I don't know about you, but I'm really tired of Dick Cheyney...

STOP THE PRESSES: JOHN'S A WEASEL. OH, YOU KNEW: I like Elizabeth Edwards, but I can't figure out why she found it necessary to rehash John-the-aging-frat-boy's crummy behavior.

SELL YOUR WORDS: You wrote a poem, a short story, a novel. Now, you can sell it on-line with no middlemen (middlepeople?) at SCRIBd.

YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN: Last week, I spoke at an alumni event at the University of Miami Law School. Talk about reunions! A bunch of my classmates showed up. (More would have been there, but home-confinement bracelets and terms of probation would not permit it). There were judges and criminal defense lawyers and personal injury lawyers and the gastroenterologist who performed my first colonoscopy.

I was happily surprised by the appearance of two friends from the distant past. M. Minnette Massey was my Civil Procedure professor and coach of the law school's moot court team. Dan Schwartz was my teammate, and together we won the national moot court championship. I won't mention the year, but the number one song in the country was the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?", China had just joined the United Nations, the Pentagon Papers were published, and the hairstyles were...shall we say...hairy.

I've lived in Los Angeles 10 years, but I still consider Miami to be home. I wonder if that's because of the transient nature of La-La Land. Maybe it's harder to sink roots here. As Raymond Chandler wrote, it's "a city with all the personality of a paper cup."

The place is so damn big. In Miami, most of my friends live in the Coral Gables/Coconut Grove area. No one is more than ten minutes from anyone else. In Los Angeles, my pals stretch from Pasadena to Manhattan Beach, and trust me, that's a drive.

"Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city." -- Dorothy Parker

I'm not sure, but I wonder if the term "urban sprawl" originated here.

"Los Angeles is just New York lying down." -- Quentin Crisp

I'd written eight novels while living in Miami, then moved to Los Angeles when I was offered a position on the writing staff of "JAG." I've written another five novels after concluding my short, unspectacular television career. So, I'm wondering. Why am I still here?

“I noticed I had developed a fantasy about myself as a writer as opposed to actually doing it so I finally summoned up the bad taste to move to Los Angeles.” -- Leslie Dixon

But maybe all cities cities are alike at the core. The good and the bad mixed, the hopeful and the distressed. Raymond Chandler, again, on Los Angeles, with its "night of a thousand crimes":

"A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness."

A writer of tales should be able to live wherever he/she wants. Right? So what should I do? What would you do? What's the best place to write? A cabin in Colorado? A beach in Tahiti? Jim Born's backyard?



  1. Why do you still live here? The answer is obvious. So we can occasionally cross the great divide and meet for lunch.

    Your post brings up a serious issue, however. How long does it take for your heart to settle in a place. I love LA but it took a good 15 years before I looked out of the airplane window on approach to Seattle and said to myself, "This isn't my home anymore."

    p.s. love the double-breasted suit.

  2. I've lived all over the place and Patty is right, it's taken me years to really feel like NC is home.

    The best place to write? Ideally it would be a city that exposes you to new things, excites and energizes you and yet still gives you the peace and quiet you need to work.

  3. David, beautifully stated. This is exactly why I love LA.

  4. to tie yesterday's post [great titles] with today's [what to do]

    Look Homeward Angel.

    Last Friday our J spoke of our list of top movies.....I offer you a merely an exchange in the movie, Duplex:
    The scene, a couple who have just bought the property are speaking to their tenant for the first time.

    Old lady: "Tell me about yourselves."
    Wife: "Oh, Alex is a writer."
    Old lady: "Oh a writer, I always thought of that as more of a hobby than a real job......I suppose I'm forgetting about Joyce...."
    Husband and Wife: "Ah, yeah, James Joyce, of course."
    Old lady: "He died drunk and penniless."


  5. Let's see, in order:

    Dick Cheney: "Oh, the horror, the horror!"

    Elizabeth Edwards: "Oh, the whore, the whore!"

    Paul Levine's hair: "Oh, the horror, the horror!"

    L.A. "What does yogurt have that L.A. doesn't? Live culture."

    Jim Born's backyard: I want to park a houseboat back there, but there's some lunatic running around with a potato gun.

  6. james O. Born5/19/2009 1:40 PM

    My backyard


  7. I'll agree that dodging potato guns might be an impediment to good writing.

    Yes, Jon, but that doesn't mean he didn't die happy.

  8. Patty,
    I'm moving home. Picture Rocks, PA.

  9. from Jacqueline

    Late to this party, but the truth is that, as a writer, you just have to write wherever you are - you don't have the choice. Now, where to live is another matter - you'll still be a writer, but you'd save on gas, assuming you moved away from La-La Land

  10. Paulie,

    You're joking. Right?

  11. You Can Never Go Home Again

  12. Patty,

    I can't go back to Picture Rocks. There's still a warrant out for me.