The winters in Charm City had been mild for two years in a row, maybe three. There was no snow or ice and many unseasonably warm days. This year was not the case. The weather in the city has been frigid and unforgiving. The outdoors are not welcoming to pedestrians and those who love to walk and take in fresh oxygen. I like to run my errands on foot. I live close to a dry cleaner, shops and supermarkets and I do not take pleasure in taking short trips in cars. My carbon footprint is small and I found myself staying in and ordering groceries and household items to be delivered to my door to avoid the harsh winter elements. I yearned for warm weather and the heat of the sun on my skin.
When I received an opportunity to fly to Los Angeles on assignment, I jumped at the chance. I am fully vaccinated and adept at social distancing having had, as I explained, very little contact with others due to the cold weather, along with taking my responsibility of not spreading disease very seriously.
I needed this. It was a shining beacon of opportunity to find solace in the brightness of Southern California. I booked my tickets and a couple of weeks later I was sitting through a 6-hour flight flying from one coast to another, descending upon my coveted destination.
I got to my hotel at 11 am. It was a beautiful old, historic marvel of a lodge in the heart of downtown LA. It was a place I’d been to many years before – a location for a photo shoot that I’d picked out when I was a young musician and model trying to make it. Back then, I couldn’t afford to stay there. I just had the means to create an image of grandeur and beauty as a backdrop to my slender body and bleach-blond hair. I was a stunning young woman who had big dreams and an eye for elegance.
15 years later I have achieved many of my dreams. My beauty is different now, more mature, dressed in a black blazer, matching shoes, holding expensive designer luggage and wearing sunglasses for as long as I can, wherever I can to hide the tiredness of my eyes. I felt the shiver of history, mine and the building’s which took me back for a moment. I guess I had come far from the days I lived in L.A., virtually homeless and living only to challenge and overcome my circumstances through my sweet-hearted ambition. My style may have changed but I cannot change my heart, the essence of my youth.
I checked in, arrived at my room, undressed and took a hot shower. I drew the blackout curtains, saying a brief goodbye to the golden rays of the sun and climbed into my bed exhausted from jetlag and the long journey. When I came to, it was nearly 4 pm. I dressed and made my way to the hotel bar, making sure to wear my diamond rings on each hand and on the appropriate fingers to ward off any signals that I was in need of company. I was not. I enjoyed the solitude and anonymity the hotel afforded me. I did, though, take in light banter with the bartender and the calmness of the thoughts and light chatter of the patrons around me. I had a nice dinner with my cocktail, and when I was done, I slipped out of my comfortable leather stool and made my way back to my room.
Then with nearly the same grace, I slipped into a nightgown and into bed and did paperwork. My aunt needed some important documents signed and there were a myriad of other responsibilities and correspondence that could not wait.
The next day I finished the business I had arrived in town to complete, and then, surprisingly, I stayed in again. I slept and sauntered about the hotel for meals and did not venture further than a block away. Was this some sort of sham? Had I not gone to LA to find the beach and the warm heat? Had I become this stereotypical east coaster who subconsciously scowled at the happy nature of Californians? Admittedly, I had been a bit cranky and edgy, feeling slightly disgruntled at nothing in particular since I arrived in town. Was I slightly repelled by the thought of wading through a city of vacationers, tourists and happy, meteorologically privileged locals? No, I can’t blame the city. I cannot fuel the subterranean (and oftentimes overt) rivalry between coasts. This had to do with me.
My desire to explore transformed and manifested into a quiet, private weekend in my hotel room and restaurants and bars, from decadent light dinners to lattes and pastries in the mornings.
Life is what you make it I guess. I was perfectly content.
Maybe I’ve always been this way and was too young and poor to have the ability to just…stay to myself in the peacefulness of my own inner world. Maybe money isolates. Maybe age changes one’s desire to run through open doors and push their way into people’s lives (networking?). There’s nothing wrong with one expanding his/her resources and connections. There’s nothing wrong with making friends and chatting up strangers in restaurants. If I had wanted that I would have done it.
But I found that what I truly wanted was me, just the way I was. I didn’t pressure myself to be someone different. I resisted the chance at getting that envy-worthy Instagram photo of the beach at sunset while my friends and family looked on, braving the cold and winter storms.
I gave myself what I needed. Time alone. Time to rest. Time to work. The space to truly be myself.
These are my notes from LA.
Jordannah Elizabeth’s writing, lectures and commentary has been featured in Hearst Magazines,on BBC 2, REELZ Channel, CBC syndicated radio, WYPR, Harvard University, Pratt Institute, Maryland Institute College of Art and Baltimore Book Festival. Jordannah’s writing has been featured in NPR Music, Village Voice, LA Weekly, MTV World, O Magazine, Cosmopolitan, DownBeat Magazine and other publications. She has been a regular entertainment journalist for New York Amsterdam News since 2013 and is the founder of the literary organization Publik / Private.