Photo by Debra DiPaolo

Look Homeward, Angeleno

This year’s

Best of L.A.

began with weekly e-mails from my colleague Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, who’d recently moved to New England with her husband. Every Friday Dawn sent a message recalling some small but indispensable part of life in L.A. that she dearly missed; I soon found myself trading notes with friends about the things we would probably long for if we left town. In our imaginary exiles, this or that store or restaurant would get mentioned, but more and more it got down to the city’s less tangible qualities, the quirks and surprises not listed in the Yellow Pages. By themselves, these things may not be enough to inspire a novel or make anyone move to L.A., but together they create a kind of gravity that keeps us here.

For me it is the Los Angeles morning, an almost imperceptible evolution of light and noise that seems to last forever and gives back to everyone the hope they’d lost the night before. It’s that stretch along Beverly Boulevard near the golf course where the temperature abruptly drops, or how the freeway above Eagle Rock suddenly smells of sage. But it’s also the people — the petitely costumed Lawry’s waitresses spinning their steel salad bowls, the Musicians Institute drummer kids applauding singers by tapping their sticks, or the garrulous old men who repair our shoes, fix our watches or pour our drinks. L.A. is a city that can be enjoyed with lots of money or none, because no matter who you are, you quickly learn what its essentials are and how to navigate and negotiate through the unnecessary. The early survival lessons of native and newcomer alike allow us to appreciate this confusing place long after the morning has faded. The following stories may remind you of what, exactly, it is about Los Angeles that makes it a place to inhabit and, however improbably, a place to call home.

On the Cover:

I love palm trees. Always have. The way they look and their sound in the wind have always made me feel like I’m home. Now that I’ve decided to leave Los Angeles and move to Montana, I realize I’ll miss them most of all.

—Debra DiPaolo



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