I’m from Denver. Well, like 20 minutes northwest of Denver. Denver adjacent. I moved back about a year and a half ago from a 21 year stint in Sunny Los Angeles and I feel like I left a whole chunk of my heart and my soul back in the Valley when I moved.
I moved to California, when I was 20 and obnoxious (probably because I was 20). I was shy, and angry, and wrote embarrassing journal entries that I was sure would win awards once I died and they were found and published. I knew everything and as I whined about the world through pages of angsty words I threw together about living alone in this world (dramatically with cats and adoring fans of my works). I couldn’t stand to be alone. I couldn’t do anything on my own. I didn’t know how to do anything on my own. I didn’t know how to do anything. And I didn’t ever have to. And then I moved to Los Angeles. Studio City to be accurate. A mile from the Brady Bunch house to be even more accurate. A couple of blocks down the street from Universal Studios, actually. Thankfully. Because I got a job at Universal Studios (CityWalk) and on my first day of work, my car wouldn’t start, so I had to walk those couple blocks (and that REALLY BIG HILL) in end of July, Valley heat. Valley heat isn’t like anywhere else I’ve ever been. Valley heat is sticky and it smells faintly of car exhaust and dirt. Sometimes garbage, depending on where you happen to be. And your head sweats under the hair you just straightened, making it rise in volume by 2.5 units. I’m not a math person, so just believe me and pretend you know that I’m right and hair units are a real measurement. I walked into my new job, a helmet of hair that now smells like the street, face hot and flushed bright red with exhaustion and being out of shape and it’s now itchy because of the sweating and I’m in HOLLYWOOD (adjacent), my roommates hated me because they had to live with the awful version of me that was now completely depressed, and, the icing on the cake, freshly car-less. I had to make friends. And quick. I knew no one. And that lasted about 20 minutes, because let me tell you something about Los Angeles. Everyone is obnoxious. And lonely. And insecure. And alone. People cling to other people like life rafts in Los Angeles. And it’s wonderful. Sometimes it’s awful, like being stalked by a stuntman awful, but most of the time, it’s amazing. And I wouldn’t be who I am now if I didn’t have to kill off pretentious, emo queen, “Denver Amy” to survive. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. Like Personality Boot Camp.
I moved back to Denver (adjacent) on an opportunity and while it’s been a great move for all the California boys I brought back with me, which is really only a husband and two kids and not like actual back-up dancers, which I didn’t realize I needed until now, there’s a feeling about moving back to a hometown where nothing has changed except there’s now a church that’s taken over the old movie theater that I saw Beetlejuice in. It’s suffocating in a way that I imagine is a lot like that one Tom Hardy movie with the black ink demon thing that people draw porn and write fan-fiction about. Anyway, I feel like “Denver Amy” haunts the streets where I grew up, reminding me of how awful I can be; my own personal Ghost of Christmas Past.
It’s entirely possible I just grew up, but throwing myself at a huge city I had only ever seen on tv and then loving everything about it for 21 years has a way of making you feel a part of something bigger than you. And I think that my reluctance to fully re-embrace Denver adjacent has more to do with my fear that if I let LA go, I can never get it back again. If I embrace my new, I’m allowing back in the old. And I made a pact to pretend that version of myself was a bad fever dream. However, recently I’ve been coming to refreshing feelings, and maybe it’s because it’s been warm for like 3 days in a row and I’m getting hopeful. I’ve decided to embrace and fall in love with my new home as if I had never sat in that new church down the street laughing at Michael Keaton in his striped suit, or been in that grocery store a mile the other way that allegedly had a make-over but I can still hear inky demon/high school me thinking about Anne of Green Gables in the frozen food isle that used to have greeting cards in it. So If I avoid those two places – the church will be easy because I don’t do the church thing, and the grocery store is where my demons seem to congregate so that one is out, then I can pretend I never lived here before.
You know what it is? When you move away from your home town, you create a new life. Like a Witness Protection kind of thing. And you can completely erase all the bad, embarrassing character flaws like Peggy Olson did with Pete’s baby. You just Don Draper it. But I’m at the Priest Colin Hanks calling me out in the Lord’s house part of the show and I want to skip ahead to the roller skating in the office part. You know? The walking down the hall carrying all my stuff in a box with octopus porn art under my arm in sunglasses with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth part of my journey. I think that I’m actually pretty close to strapping on my roller skates, though. I have made a conscious decision to actively love where I live with such vigor, that I single-handedly become the Denver Adjacent Tourism Board. I can still love Los Angeles, fiercely, but I’ve seen Sunset Boulevard. It doesn’t work to shut the world out thinking it still loves me; demanding that Hollywood not forget me while I rot away in my self-imposed exile.
But you see, as I wrote this, several friends from LA have randomly and unknowingly sent emails and texts of love and gossip, reining me back in.
OMG! Mr Deville, I’m ready for my close-up.