You’re Better than the Cheesecake Factory (What LA Taught Me About Turning Fifty)

I haven’t been to LA in 25 years. It’s not personal - we’re just not a match(a). I used to come here for work and race home when I was done. The place was pretty, but fake, plastic-y, a watered down version of its magical onscreen presence. The people felt the same as well - all smiles but little more - with one of my least favorite questions making me feel like work is the worth here and not much else. I opted for New York and its absolute reality.

But now my work has brought me back here again. And I’m finding myself having mixed feelings for LaLaLand. The prettiness is still here, as is the plastic feel. But a trip up Runyon Canyon, with its majestic mountains and sweeping views, brought me to tears. Standing atop a hill, I saw dots moving along the ridges that line the slope - people making their way alone or in groups, dogs trailing behind them or leading the way. Bodies moving where the mountains touch the sky, that type of humanity cannot be contrived.

The people I had dismissed as disconnected have shown up again - auditions, screenwriting and other very important business details are discussed in raised voices here. But so have many warm and helpful ones, like the Lyft driver who took one look at me and my destination, declared, “You’re better than the Cheesecake Factory!” and drove me to Urth Caffe instead - where I feasted on the Caravan Kale Salad and Green Juice (there are some things that LA is indisputably good at). He wasn’t the only genuine person I crossed paths with, and I felt my hardened NYC mindset soften against the supposed superficiality of LA and its inhabitants.

As I approach my fifty-first year, I’d like to think that I know who I am and can trust my instincts. But lately I have found myself surprised by what I want, uncertain about what I like, unsure about what I know. And it’s that very surprise that promises me new adventures, that very uncertainty that determines that I won’t be bored, that very unsureness that assures me that my curiosity will remain intact.

What LA taught me about turning fifty is that there is still so much more of myself to uncover and for life to reveal. (With some sweet surprises thrown in along the way, like my unexpected celebrity sighting - sitting right next to me at Urth Caffe).

Karen Gurwitz2 Comments