Earthquakes or hurricanes.
As I contemplate whether I prefer living on the East or West Coast of the USA, the extremes in weather cannot help but influence my thoughts. Do I want to die buried alive amid a heap of building rubble, or be swept away by the elements?
For the past couple of weeks, Los Angeles has been unbearably hot, with a humidity I haven’t experienced in over five years of being here. In New York, where I was due to fly back for July 4th Independence Day celebrations, there were storms following Hurricane Arthur that swept in from North Carolina.
People tell me I won’t be able to bear August in New York (too hot, plus mosquitoes – I have already seen one the size of a bat), nor January (too cold). California, for the most part, is the same all year. When it spits six drops of rain here, it makes national headlines, and for days afterwards people stop you in the street to ask how you managed during the “storm”.
European weather has prepared me well for the horrors that apparently await me in New York when I decamp there (more of that anon, for those of you have expressed curiosity). In my home town of Cardiff, it rains pretty much every day of the year (or so it seems), and it’s hard to imagine that anywhere could be colder than Paris (where I lived for five years) in winter. I once sat through a rugby match in the national stadium, and I swear it took my head four hours to de-frost. So bad was the cold, I never went to a match that wasn’t under cover ever again.
But I have been assured that in the New York winter, you can’t walk a few yards without having to take refuge in a shop for comfort. It never happens in the black and white films, where women wearing little more than a thin overcoat happily carry their hatboxes out of Macy’s department store and wander the streets for hours under the glare of Christmas tinsel; but then I’ve always had more faith in what I see on screen, despite reality’s constant attempt to prove otherwise.
And so, to my decision to leave LA - at least, for a while. At first, I was going to do the bi-coastal thing, but quickly discovered that all I was doing was arriving at one apartment, cleaning it, and then heading to the airport to fly back to clean another. I felt like the world’s most expensive domestic. The cost of two rents, plus flights, seemed a waste, when one place was always empty.
I have been in LA five years, and I love it here, but I’m bored. For a woman of my age, it’s tough socially. Sure, you can sit at a bar by yourself, but take drink out of the equation (which I regularly do) and what have you got? Sitting alone at home with a box set of The Good Wife – and now that Will’s dead, even that’s no fun anymore.
I have managed perfectly well with buses, cabs, and sometimes, walking, in LA, but the distance is a deterrent to people venturing further from their own front door. This makes them very flaky when it comes to arrangements, which they constantly break. And everyone wants something from you. I can count on one hand the number of times anyone has asked me a question about my life. They just don’t care. It’s a “What can you do for me?” culture – and the expat Brits are the worst.
I am probably in the honeymoon period in New York, but Manhattan is a far more friendly, outgoing place. I have always said that LA may be full of bullshit, but as bullshit goes, it’s the best in the world. Now, however, I’m enjoying the bullshit free culture that is much more akin to London mentality. While I have never liked London much, I love the intelligence, humour and general vibrancy at the heart of my industry that prevails there; likewise, New York, where, as an older woman, I am not made to feel like a parasite whom the rest of society wishes would fall off her perch and make room for the younger generation (and, to be honest, I pretty much feel like that in the UK these days).
Everyone – and I mean everyone – talks to me in New York. My armour – iPad, two phones, reading glasses – that I take to restaurants and bars quickly becomes redundant among people hell-bent on personal communication. I also love the 24/7 culture - being able to buy a pint of milk at any time – and not having my drink whipped off the table on the dot of 2am. I like the ease of travel – subway, walking or cabs – and everything I want to do being within close proximity from where I live.
The stimulus of seeing so many people from different walks of life, together with the incredible architecture (it is the most extraordinarily beautiful city), can also only be grist to any writer’s mill.
And, yes, there’s the weather. I hadn’t realised how much I missed rain until I gazed from my living room window at the forked lightning hitting the Hudson River. Utterly beautiful. I had forgotten the calm that watching the beauty of a sunset over water can induce (yes, I could have that in LA, but over an hour’s bus ride away). I had forgotten how much variety fuels creativity. Constant sunshine is great, but it really does become boring.
New York is also much closer to the UK, so I will be able to visit family and friends more often at half the cost. Heck, it’s so close, I feel I might even try swimming there.
Maybe, at the end of the day, I’m just ready for a change. I’ve always been the same, although I’m keeping my stuff in storage in LA - just in case.
However, if ever you read here that Miami has won me over, please feel free to have me sectioned.