Every time I fly out of Los Angeles I imagine to myself that I am leaving it for the last time. I always get window seats on planes, not so much for the purpose of looking at aerial scenery, but more importantly so that I do not have to be disturbed by fellow passengers crossing over me to use the restroom. The thing is that I like setting myself up in my seat and organizing, inside the seat pocket in front of me, all the things I will need during the flight. The way I see it, this little seat is my rather expensive temporary home in the air, and when someone crosses over me it gives me the same feeling as if someone were trudging through my home on the ground in noisy muddy boots while I try to enjoy an episode of True Blood in my loungie pants. I just really dislike being disrupted once I have set in, and since my bladder is fairly functional in its load capacity, I can sit for stretches at a time at a window seat and not have to pee.
Anyway, I wonder at the similarity between my imagination of leaving Los Angeles and the inevitable actual experience of it. I imagine that the actual experience would involve a certain quality of melancholy and adventure that are missing in the imaginative version, but the thing about imagination is that it is often as accurate as it is inaccurate. In reality, it is not so important whether or not my actual experience matches my imaginings, because in this case, at least, the imaginings are an end in themselves.
I enjoy imagining leaving Los Angeles. As I look out of an airplane from the small porthole window, I imagine that I am looking down at my whole life in the city—all 20 years of it. In a way, I would not be surprised if I were to see myself on the streets below, as I pass over and above them, acting out the various chapters of my Angelino life. Look! There I am on the stage of the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, playing Bert from "Mary Poppins", dancing and lip-syncing to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. There I am working at the Starbucks Coffee downtown in the Arco Plaza, laying cardboard dinosaur feet on the floor in homage to the opening of Godzilla. Oh! There I am riding my bike down Jefferson Blvd. on my way to Antioch University, where I am completing my Masters degree.
In these imaginings, I will marvel not at how much younger I was, but instead at how much I have done in Los Angeles in the past 20 years. Part of the reason I have done so much is because I am single and childless. (So often, those with children list one accomplishment—raising a family, primarily because this is an all-consuming activity. They cannot always list “marriage”, since we all know that having a child these days rarely requires marriage; additionally, getting married these days rarely ends up on one’s list of successful accomplishments.) Another part of the reason I have done so much is that I am curious; and yet another part of the reason is that I subscribe to the science that proves (yes, I said proves) that this is our only shot—you get just one ride on this Merry-Go-Round.
Now, though it is somewhat difficult as well as entirely silly for me to get excited about “new beginnings” at this age and at this stage of my life, I am sure that this is exactly what I will be feeling as my jet plane glides off the runway at LAX and into the air on its way to __________. I have not moved from one major city to another since 1991, and it was quite a big deal for me back then—therefore I have no doubt that it will be a big deal when it happens again. But there will be a huge difference, among many differences that I could name. Mainly, there is the difference of what I will be moving to. Back in 1991 I was moving into my future, and what would arguably be my prime productive years. I moved here to develop my performing career, and, to a lesser extent, to jumpstart my life. I was 29 years old. It felt as if everything significant was in front of me: success, love, fame, happiness(?). In comparison, my next move will most likely occur as I approach my 60th birthday, which I can safely say will be two thirds of the way through my life; and though some would say that I will still be moving into my future, I am not sure that I would call this is an accurate description. I don’t know what I would call it, to tell you the truth, but I know that this is not it. Maybe…moving into my Third Act? My Comfortable Decline? My Final Adventure? None of those sound right (or particularly appealing) to me either. I guess that is why this blog is a 10 year project—I have not yet figured out what I am planning on moving into.
My most recent opportunity to gaze out of an airplane porthole at a receding Los Angeles, was a trip to Connecticut for the wedding of one of my closest friends. This was a short trip, just four days, and I knew that the most difficult part of the trip would be the urge to detour into Manhattan—just a hop skip from La Guardia Airport. I have not been into the city in maybe five years, and although I have not ever lived there, it nevertheless calls out to me like a siren whenever I am within hop skipping distance. I did in fact once want to live in New York, but that was many years ago, when I was still nursing a dream of a theater career. I nearly had a chance to go there, too, with one show I helped originate in Los Angeles, but the producers ultimately decided to go with New York performers. Phooey on them! I often wonder how different my life would be if I had ended up there with the show—if I would have continued performing, or eventually gone back to school just like I did here. It is fun to ruminate about, without feeling any regrets or misgivings. There are always a million other choices we could have made at nearly any point in our lives, all of them leading to potentially life altering results.
Anyway, I had a wonderful time, in glorious weather, participating in and attending my friend’s wedding. Connecticut is quite beautiful, but then so is the whole Northeast—green, green, green, and missing for the most part that brand of ugly stucco strip mall architecture that dominates the corners of nearly every Southern California city street. The homes are generally old, but well kept, with wood slat sidings and large porches, and the business buildings are often made of brick—quaint and lovely. But Connecticut is awfully “white”, with the women wearing hairbands over their bleached blond hair, and the men, even in their 20’s, pasty, overweight, and encased in topsiders and polo shirts. Not too exciting for a queer man who is used to being around lots of color and creativity, you know what I mean?
So although I once wanted to live on the East Coast, I would no longer do so, and although I love the beauty of Connecticut, I also would not want to live there. But it is worth a visit in order to attend the wedding of a dear friend, and it is worth a visit for the opportunity to look out an airplane porthole window and once again imagine that I am leaving Los Angeles, for the last time.