On the whole that's how it turned out, too. The first year was full of some fairly bitter disappointments, it's true - but it was also the start of some excellent friendships, and for that reason alone it would be worth doing all over again.
Since that first year though, it's been an amazing experience. I no longer feel like Philadelphia is "home", and I feel as much at home in Venice as I have anywhere, except maybe my childhood home. Even that suited me as a kid (though maybe not so well!) but wouldn't as an adult. Venice is my home. When I die, scatter my ashes on Venice Beach.
I've made a pretty wide assortment of friends from all walks of life, and some of them are "lawyers guns and money" friends. You know, the kind you can call up and say, "I need a lawyer!" and they "no problem." and you say, "I need guns!" and they say "no problem!" and you say "I need money!" and they say "No problem!" Those kinds of friends. That's the most important part about being here.
I won't deny that material success has been a nice benefit too - being out of debt and able to help friends and family (and stray cats) who need it has been a blessing. Not to mention my own personal freedom to travel, see shows, concerts, and do things I've always wanted to do.
I have loved some extraordinary women while here - of amazing intellect, beauty, passion, wit. I've had my heart-broken too, and none of it has lasted. But it was all worth it, every bit! I regret nothing! If I am never blessed to love and be loved again, it will still be sufficient to keep a secret and wicked smile on my face for many a decade to come.
The potential in Los Angeles is inspiring, too. I'm a writer. One of these days I'll get that break - even if every shot is a long shot, at least it's a shot. Work hard, keep at it - I'll make it. I know I've got the talent, I know I've got the heart. And LA is a city that rewards the diligent. It doesn't seem like that - it seems like fortune is a fickle mistress here more than anywhere...but the truth is, you have to be there for her to find you. If you're not here, trying - you can't do it. So many people say "after ten years of trying, I was an over-night success!" But it's not over-night at all, you see? Maybe she finds you fast, or maybe she grinds you down for years and years before she gives you the nod - but she's here, and if you're not, you're not in the running.
But most of all, I love the ocean. I love getting up every morning and walking out to look at the Pacific. I love her ever-changing moods, she's never the same color twice. Every day I want to take a picture! Every day I want to grab people walking by, looking at their feet and say, "Will you look at that! It goes on forever!" I love sitting by the shore and listening to the waves crash, I love watching the white-water foam over the breakwater rocks. I love getting on my surfboard and bobbing in the cold water, watching the cormorants and pelicans and sea-gulls, and when I'm lucky, climbing on to the shoulder of a giant to catch a ride on a passing wave. I love the smell of the ocean when I come home, the arc of the palm trees in heavy winds, the call of gulls, the sound of the drummers on the beach every weekend.
I know in years to come I will look back on this time as an extraordinarily magical period of my life. I feel it in my bones ever day, now - imagine what it will be like when memory has burnished up the good parts to a golden perfection, and glossed over the pains and struggles.
I thought about calling up all my friends and inviting them to a dinner party celebrate this anniversary. My intent was to not show up myself, and later tell them "Eh, I flaked!" It would be a perfect LA moment, and that's the one thing to which I've never really adjusted. My East Coast soul still shudders every time someone says they'll show, and just doesn't. Really, I hope that never changes - I never want to be one of those people! Truly though, if that's the greatest of my worries, I am fortunate indeed.
Three years in Los Angeles. Every day brighter than the last! Here's to three hundred more!