Living in my Suitcase: Elizabeth Day in Los Angeles

Living in my Suitcase: Elizabeth Day in Los Angeles

The How to Fail author and podcast host on how the city
of Los
Angeles
taught her to love again.

This article appears in Volume 27: The Books
Issue

If I were to pinpoint the moment I fell in love with Los
Angeles
, it would not be a picture-postcard memory. It would,
in fact, be comparatively unexceptional: one of those seemingly
mundane wrinkles in time that becomes memorable only in
retrospect.

The moment I fell in love with LA
was when I was driving in my beat-up red rental car. I was on Los
Feliz Boulevard, a pumping artery of traffic lined on either side
by tall trees. Above me, the sky was the blue of endless
possibility. To my right were the parched brown hiking trails which
wound their way up into the hills of Griffith Park. If you went one
way, the trails would take you to the Hollywood sign, white block
capitals sprouting improbably out of the landscape. If you took the
other fork in the path, you would reach the glittering art-deco
dome of the Griffith Observatory, studded into the horizon like a
bright shell in the seabed.

If you carried on upwards, overtaking the off-duty celebrities
in black Nike sneakers, the dog walkers and the bug-eyed runners
sheathed in sweat, you would get to a point where the city was laid
out like a sparkling carpet beneath you, receding into the distance
where it met the stretching vastness of the ocean. You would
breathe in deeply, as I had done many times before, and you would
feel you’d “Made it, Ma! On top of the world!” (and, yes, it would
feel absolutely appropriate that you were quoting a snatch of movie
dialogue in a city that dreams its own legends in cinematic
freeze-frame).


And yet, it was not in any of these beautiful places that I fell
in love with
Los Angeles
. It was the road. It was Los Feliz Boulevard. It
was the simple act of driving with the radio on and with the
windows wound down, feeling the warm breeze in my hair and inhaling
the unmistakable fragrance of the city: jasmine mixed with exhaust
fumes mixed with dirty optimism. I had been in
LA
for six weeks. I had come to recuperate from the end of a
marriage. I had arrived and my sense of self had been shrunken to a
point of invisibility.

On that first morning, I had turned my face into the
Californian
sun. I had breathed a little more deeply. In the
days that followed, I drank green juice and ate sushi and went to
yoga and hiked and did all the things you are meant to do in

Los Angeles
. And slowly, I had begun to heal.

Then I found myself driving down Los Feliz Boulevard on that
particular day, with my hands on the wheel. There was, in that
moment, an absence of the sadness I had become so accustomed to. At
first, I could not identify this unfamiliar feeling. It was only
after a few more minutes had passed, and I had indicated right to
slip into Sunset Boulevard with its palm trees and McDonald’s
signs, its billboard eyes and over-reaching traffic lights, that I
realised what it was: I was happy. And the sky was blue.