Underneath the Palm Trees: LOS ANGELES

by Kristin Braswell

For me, Los Angeles is many things. Palm trees is not one of them. Los Angeles is black and mild smoke and over-sized dice in the mirror; it is life then death in the blink of an eye. Los Angeles is sweatpants and flip-flops worn year round.  It is burritos stuffed with bright orange cheese and grease that drips onto fingertips.  Jolly ranchers melted around blow pops to sell at recess. Tennis skirts and loose slouch socks stacked to the knee. It is chestnut lipliner from MAC and watching your classmates skip fourth period to go surfing. Adulation for “good hair” and being mixed with Indian or Creole.  The sound of motorcycles on Crenshaw on Sundays after a Lakers win. The way the sunset defies logic with its beauty, whether you are driving through the hood or the hills. It is a late night lock and key at World on Wheels. A sea of flannel shirts at a BBQ. More bounce to the ounce. The news of the death of a homie who never made it to 25. Los Angeles is feet pointed outward, strutting in Converse with duck-like precision. It is a jheri curl that never wanted to let go.

My Los Angeles has become a thing of carefully decorated granola bowls and bearded hipsters in our always been there neighborhoods. It is the cool place to move when you are tired of the cold and hustle. An amorphous paradise made real by Hollywood credits and sunshine.  This shift is happening in many places around the country, but there is something in particular about Los Angeles' slow transformation, a place that has already been glorified by outsiders for so long, that makes the evolution even more disorienting. Even those corners where we never completely safe, but were still ours, are changing. Tacos are suddenly trendy. Waifish women who have never seen the real inner city wear backward caps that say L.A. or Compton, and men from other states still cripwalk awkwardly at parties.

The allure of palm trees and sunshine year round is strong, and only partially real. It’s what’s underneath those palm trees that makes Los Angeles home to so many natives.

Anyone from L.A. knows that it is far less about that said allure and much more about your people. I moved to New York because I never felt a connection to the city of L.A., but I always had my people. Real people. I still do. The girlfriend I can call to grab a margarita and let out our sorrows between sips, or the cousin who will be the first one to jump on the grill to BBQ. The family member that will ride for me, by any means necessary. It is this same spirit that transcends blood ties and magnifies itself through gangs, territory and ultimately, a deep desire to belong. Los Angeles is millions of people trying to connect, sometimes haphazardly, and other times in ways that breathe life into one's very own will to survive.

I have fought my home for a long time. The reasons are as simple as wanting to see the world and as difficult as losing a father.  I have not always been fair to my home or given it a chance. Still, like many relationships, I know there is a love there that can grow, if I am willing to try.

Los Angeles will always be a bizarre city to me, caught somewhere between the glamorization of Hollywood, the 90s and a high school popularity contest. But it is home. And this is something I can no longer fight. 

This month’s Feel It theme is HOME. Each month, various writers will contribute their perspective on a chosen topic with the aim to help deepen our connection to each other and this world. If you are interested in contributing to our theme of the month, please contact us at contact@crushglobaltravel.com.