I've cranked on Los Angeles so much lately that I feel I owe a belated apology to my ex-husband, who was the biggest crank-on-L.A. resident Angeleno I've ever met. His reasons for hating L.A. (superficial, phony, ugly) were different than mine are (traffic, overcrowding, traffic, increasingly ill-tempered drivers and traffic), but the cranking is the same.
Here's the thing: I also love Los Angeles. Love love love it. As in, it's my favorite place I've ever lived. Not just because of the weather (fantastic) and the proximity to ocean/mountains/desert (way close) but because of the sense of wide-open possibility that I imagine there used to be all over this wide, wonderful country we live in. For me, L.A. was the place I could come and be me, whatever the hell that meant, with no apologies. Maybe other people can move to Tulsa or South Beach or Hilo and feel that: for me, it was crunchy-fruity-sprawly-messy Los Angeles.
In the long, slow process of extricating my head from my ass, I'm learning about other things that make my Los Angeles experience so wonderful, namely, the people who keep it running. I don't avail myself of hired domestic services, but I audition in places that do. I eat at restaurants and shop at stores and for the most part thoughtlessly gobble up products and services that are made possible, in whole or in part, by immigrant labor.
Frankly, I can't believe I was so dense for so long. Oh, wait, yes, I can. It's hard to be awake, dammit. It's painful to start the process; it's exhausting and overwhelming and terrifying to stay the course. To be mindful about everything was easier, I think, when there was less to be mindful about, just like history was probably easier to learn when there was less of it.
Or maybe that's where and how to start being mindful: with less. Less house, less stuff, less external noise. Like my friend, Danimus, who woke up his former roommate (and my favorite ex-boyfriend) to the disgustingness of his ways by hiding all but two place settings of the flatware and glassware and dishware, when things are suddenly stripped down to the essentials, when the context is suddenly shifted, we often finally wake up to the mess we've been generating.
Giving up TV last week made me mindful of how much noise it had been generating in my house and, more shamefully, of how much I'd come to depend on it as comfort in certain stressful moments. Similarly, the profound quiet I'm hearing two blocks from what will be the center of the afternoon march on Immigrant Boycott Day speaks louder than all the shouting on either side before it.
I have many opinions on how we should treat each other as human beings and few ideas on how to legislate them. I can't blast those who fret about unfettered immigration because I see their point; I can't support them, because there are human beings involved, and on both sides. On all sides. Sides I haven't even begun to explore yet. As Stephan Faris says in a thought-provoking Salon editorial, this is a global economic issue, not a local one. If I really want to make Los Angeles a better place, I not only have to think about the labor that went into picking that strawberry I'm about to eat, but the global implications of living in a place where such a thing is possible. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, along with a thousand-million ripple actions you may not even be aware of.
The cure for overwhelm?
Tolerance. Kindness. Mindfulness.
Start at any point in the triangle...
Photo of my great-grampa, Emil Weinrott (his grandson changed the family name), who emigrated from Russia in the late-19th century to, of all places, Moline, Illinois.