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"That Zen Moment on the Freeway" - Have You Had It Yet?

How long does it take for a newcomer to feel at home in L.A.? A year? A decade? A lifetime? Answers to this question were floated at a panel discussion on angeleno identity this week in Pasadena (Angelino, Angeleno, Angeleño: Who Are We?) I liked moderator Leslie Berestein Rojas' take on the subject: you become an Angeleno when you have "that Zen moment on the freeway", when you see the traffic, sit back, and relax thinking all is well.

I remember my first visit to L.A., in 1998, the sense of bewilderment, distrust. This place lacked a center; it pulled in too many directions: Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, L.A. downtown. Each part of Los Angeles that I got to experience as a tourist had its own character, its own identity. As a whole the city was so different from what I was used to from Europe that I felt uncomfortable.

When we moved here in 1999 I made a conscious effort to take Los Angeles for what it is, a hodgepodge city, patchwork, a place with more faces than the Lernaean Hydra but not as viscous. I cannot recall when I had my first L.A. Zen moment but it has been a while. Even in my first year here I was sure that Los Angeles is where I wanted to be. It has stayed that way.

Other transplants have a harder time. At the discussion Allon Schoener, cultural historian and author from New York, talked about still having reservations toward L.A. Schoener moved here in January of 2010. He runs a blog with the appropriate title The Reluctant Angeleno.

From the podium the L.A. chronicler D.J. Waldie reminded all Angelenos to be vigilant: L.A. allows us to reinvent ourselves and to project anything we like onto its surface but we also need to keep its history alive.  "We are not doing our duty as citizens if we don't understand the past of this place", he said.


debi said…

I hate traffic with a passion. My Zen moment would probably have to be extracted with the jaws-of-life.

I'm not sure I've had a Zen moment with Dallas (and I've been here more that half a century), but I love Dallas and especially Frisco and all parts north, so maybe I just was blind to my awakening.

Or maybe it's that I reverse commute from a suburban area to a rural one in the morn and back in the eve and rarely have to deal with traffic.

It sounds like you don't need that freeway Zen moment. Good for you!

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