Each week, Jeremy Rosenberg (@losjeremy) asks, "How did you - or your family before you -- wind up living in Los Angeles?
"Yes, Los Angeles. I was moving to Los Angeles. If someone gave me a map of the world and said "Pick a new place to live!" the very, VERY last place I'd choose would be -- you guessed it -- Los Angeles.
"Oh, I'd been to L.A. before: as a tyke in the '70s, breezing by on the way to Disneyland (Dad: 'No, we're not going to Hollywood. It's a hellhole.'); as a teen in the '80s zipping through on the way to Mexico (Mom: 'No, we're not going to Hollywood. It's a hellhole.'); and yet again in my 20s, when I was the bass player and singer in an all-girl cuddle core trio called cub and we played a club in Hollywood called Hell's Gate.
"Hell's Gate was at the corner of Yucca and Cahuenga. In 1994, Yucca and Cahuenga was dubbed 'one of the most dangerous intersections in America.' There were actual Guardian Angels (the guys in the red berets, remember them?) standing around on the sidewalk to protect us from gunfire while we were moving our amps out of the club. Yikes.
"Smog! Smog tests! Freeways! Police helicopters circling overhead for hours! Donut shops that also sell Chinese food! Home marijuana delivery! Zillions of big pink billboards featuring a big breasted, blonde lady! Feral cats! People without the vaguest whiff of a work ethic wandering around in flip flops saying 'Duuuuude!' all the time! My hometown of Vancouver, BC did not have any of these things. I couldn't imagine wanting or needing any of these things as part of my daily existence.
"So how did it happen? Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not so sure myself. One day cub was opening for a band called The Muffs on a national tour and the next day I was eloping at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas with the bass player. Of all the bass players in all the towns, in all the world, I had to fall for one who lived in Los Angeles.
"I dug my heels in and resisted relocation for two years but at long last, on November 18, 1997, I arrived in the City of Angels, determined for the sake of love and punk rock to make a go of it.
"It was hard! The city sprawled hot, beige and dusty. An endless parade of mini-malls. I whined about the lack of free health care and efficient public transportation. Earthquakes! I missed green parks and walking to work and moisture. There wasn't the late night excitement of other cities I'd been to on tour like New Orleans, New York and Montreal. I kept forgetting to move my car on street sweeping days and the tickets piled up. Grrrrr.
But the city was patient with me. I began to meet people and almost no one I met had been born in L.A.; it was a whole city of immigrants. Everyone had a story to tell and everyone had a moment to listen to yours. 'Okay, kid, give it a shot... let's see what you've got!'
"Anything and everything was possible. The music community welcomed me in. Rent was cheap. The weather was fine and there was plenty of time to ramble all over the place, meet wacky weirdos with an eye on the stairway to stardom, and discover a million and one fun, freaky, free things to do.
"Self-guided cemetery tours? Check. Sister Aimee Semple McPherson Museum? Check. The labyrinth at the old Busby Berkeley house? Check. The holiday jam session at that pawnshop on Santa Monica Boulevard? Check. The view from the top of City Hall? Check. Lectures at the Theosophy Hall? Oh yeah. That camera obscura in the old folks community center by the beach? Check. Rock shows, art shows, cat shows? Check, check and check. Observing some of the finest chess players in the world match wits in the wee hours at Tang's Donuts? Check mate!
"And speaking of donuts, I even shared a few laughs with the owner of Mom's Donuts And Chinese Food To Go. Finally I accepted LA for what it was and quit comparing it to other cities. And finally LA began to feel like home.
"Sometime later, in a cardboard suitcase stuffed full of random papers I'd brought with me from Vancouver, I came across a letter. A letter on pale pink paper embellished with big red strawberries I'd written to myself when I was thirteen-years-old. There were hearts instead of dots over the i's.
"'Dear 33,' it read. 'How's it hanging out there in the future? Do you live in L.A. yet? Are you in a band? Are the Bee Gees still your #1 fave? Love, 13.'
"Well, 13, two outta three ain't bad."
-- Lisa Marr
(as emailed to Jeremy Rosenberg)
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Top Photo: Lisa Marr, seaside, in 1997. Photo courtesy Lisa Marr
Do you or someone you know have a great Los Angeles Arrival Story to share? If so, then contact Jeremy Rosenberg via: arrivalstory AT gmail DOT com. Follow Rosenberg on Twitter @losjeremy
**Jeremy Rosenberg has co-curated events at EFPC and been a dues-paying member