Normally, people use the phrase above as a kick-off or a footnote for some outrageous story involving at least two minor celebrities, somebody else's car, a kilo of coke, and a dead hooker. "Only in L.A., man," the captive audience will say as they shake their heads in disbelief. "Only in L.A."
I never have any of those stories, though, so when I think, "Only in L.A." the moments in question tend to be much more mundane. I think it's because I'm realizing that my time in Los Angeles is finite, that I won't be twenty-three forever, and that there are things worth remembering from this time.
Driving up the PCH on a hot Sunday afternoon until the beach traffic is far behind me -- parking on the side of the road at a random coastal access point, stretching out on my ancient green beach towel and reading a trashy novel in the sun and my bikini. Going into the water after a while, moving forward and rushing back with the tide, trying to avoid getting in over my head. Failing eventually, swept up by the surf, falling to my knees, trying like hell to figure out which way is up, trying like hell to hold onto my top. Trying it one more time, hoping to get past the break and failing, falling once more, lost in the ocean again.
I decided it was time to leave after that. Time for a shower and civilization.
So I drove down along the coastline, peeking in the rearview mirror every few minutes to see the ocean behind me, the waves glinting silver as the sun descended towards them.
The Garden State soundtrack, downloaded from iTunes and burned to CD, played just loud enough to cover that annoying whispy sound I keep thinking I hear coming from the car stereo. And I combed the sand from my hair and followed the curves of the road, and as Chris Martin crooned about our beautiful world I realized that in two years I might be living somewhere thousands of miles away from that spot, in some glittering metropolis with public transportation and no beach to escape to. And I thought about being that 25-year-old of the future, looking back to this Sunday afternoon and marveling at that person I used to be. That person who had a car and went to the beach, who glid through the rolling hills with the sun and the surf to her back.
I felt like she was watching. I wanted to wave to her. Hi there. Where are you? What are you doing that I want to do? What do you miss about the things that I can do now?
Last night, the barbecue I went to felt like a party, but I was exhausted by the notion of meeting new people, so I laid on the front lawn of the house and looked up at the sky while those around me smoked and ate, beer bottles clinking around me and indie rock echoing from outside.
The day's scorching heat was slowly disappating, and the grass was dewy, raising goosebumps through the thin sheet I lay on. I could see at least eight stars. In the sky, that is. No celebrities at the party.
Yet all the same, I thought to myself: Only in L.A.