Westward Ho

When I accepted a job to transfer from New York City to Los Angeles, I figured October would be the ideal month to move. Just as bone-chilling winds began sweeping the East Coast, I’d be basking in year-round sunshine on the other side of the country.

But the timing couldn’t have seemed worse when I arrived here to find wildfires ravaging the region, labor strikes disrupting the city’s transit system and grocery stores and a new governor whose qualifications included "Kindergarten Cop." Snow was starting to become a fond memory as I came to grips with feeling as if I’d moved to biblical Egypt during the Ten Plagues.

Still, there’s no turning back now. Turning 30 had left me with a creeping sense of stagnation about my life, which I’d lived entirely in New York. I hoped a different state would help me find a new state of mind.

And then there was the sneaking suspicion I had dated every Jewish single girl available in New York. That notion finally fully dawned on me when a friend-of-a-friend recommended a woman who he deemed compatible. Upon further inquiry, I discovered we had more than just interests in common: we shared DNA. I politely declined the opportunity to date my cousin.

Then again, incest might seem more advisable than coming to Los Angeles in hopes of meeting single, stable Jewish women. I had been duly warned that everyone here is superficial and insincere. These sentiments, of course, came from that hotbed of depth and sincerity known as Manhattan, so I paid them no mind.

Dating in Manhattan isn’t quite what you’ve seen on "Sex and the City." What irks me most about that show is how it glamorizes every aspect of city living, as if horrific weather and sluggish subways don’t interfere with single, attractive people. If Carrie Bradshaw were a real person, she wouldn’t last five minutes in her Manolo Blahniks, much less afford them on a writer’s salary.

But I must admit my own fantasies of Los Angeles living were fueled by another HBO show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." How I yearned to be Larry David, roaming carefree around this eternally sunny city, bumping into one quirky character after another even more neurotic than he is. Even as it satirized the loopy conventions of suburban life, "Curb" made Los Angeles seem like a place I’d come to love.

Perhaps it might partly explain how eerily calm I was being about making such a huge change in my life as I made the extensive preparations to move. No 2 a.m. cigarettes, jagged fingernails or circling psychotherapists names in the Yellow Pages. It was an unfamiliar feeling, and newfound maturity seemed an unlikely explanation. It got to the point where I started to get anxious about not being anxious.

But soon enough I realized what brought on inner peace: For the first time in who knows how long, due to my complete preoccupation with moving, I was not engaged whatsoever in the customary histrionics associated with meeting/dating/loving/arguing/breaking up with any woman. I hadn’t made a conscious decision to avoid the opposite sex; I simply didn’t have the time.

I’m no historian on Buddhism, but I’d hazard a guess the Dalai Lama was not dating anybody when he first achieved that whole nirvana thing. With all the energies I usually devote to wrecking relationships channeled entirely into the equally messy business of relocation, friends and family marveled at my Zen-like demeanor. I presumed all the pent-up emotion would cause me to breakdown at my goodbye party like a beauty pageant winner, but I sailed through it as if I were going to see everyone again the next day.

Now that I am in Los Angeles, I know I can only repress my romantic life for so long. As consumed as I have been by the challenges associated with obtaining an apartment and a car, celibacy won’t fly once I’ve settled in and have no distractions.

I’ve been here only a month now, and the more time I spend here, the more sobering my new reality becomes. Topping wildfires, earthquakes and other Egypt-esque plagues common to Los Angeles are more mundane concerns like traffic, car insurance payments and, yes, finding Jewish women.

Adjusting to my new surroundings can be stressful sometimes. But it all seemed worth it one fine evening not long after I got here, when I strolled out to the beach in Venice during sunset. In New York, you actually forget there is a sky over your head because so many buildings block your view.

But standing in front of the ocean’s vast expanse, my head swimming with all of the possibilities that lay before me in Los Angeles, I was able to forget about my ash-sullied car and Pharaoh Schwarzenegger.

But if the Pacific Ocean turns red, I am so outta here.

Andrew Wallenstein writes for
the Hollywood Reporter. His work was included in the recently published “Best
Jewish Writing 2003” (Jossey-Bass). He can be reached at awally@aol.com.