About a week ago, Joe and I took a drive up Lilibridge Road from the Olean side toward Portville. I’ve been on this drive countless times in my childhood, but not as much in recent years since living in LA.
A lot has changed, but also a lot hasn’t changed. Many of the same houses are still standing, some miraculously, and the view is still to die for in both winter and summer, but the field of wild flowers I have a strong memory of running through one Sunday afternoon with my dad is gone and the Pfeifer Nature Center pavilion is new.
When I announced I was leaving LA after a long 12 years, the first questions were – where are you going? / what are going to do? / what will you miss about LA?
The first two questions aren’t important because I’m here now and what I am doing is exactly what I want to do – live and write. The last question haunted me the entire last few months I was in LA.
What was I going to miss? Tacos, of course, but what else? What was I going to miss about the city I’d come to know and love in a weird way, but also that was in a state of constant change so that I was no longer a regular anywhere due to business closures/overcrowded places I no longer felt comfortable at?
The only answer I have is NoHo Diner. Sure, I miss my friends, but going to the NoHo Diner at the drop of a hat to meet up with someone I haven’t seen in forever or just talked to for 2 hours last night, but oh my god I haven’t told you about the crazy shit that happened to me at Von’s!
The other thing I get asked a lot now – how are you adjusting to off grid life?
I left a house with running water and rats in the walls to a little, off-grid shack on the outskirts of town up a road you need 4-wheel drive on where I wake up every morning next to my favorite human and our dog sleeping below us and our cabin Joe is building just a stone’s throw from the front door.
But the cold…
Meh. It’s cold, I wear layers.
What no one asks – how’s living in your hometown after being gone over a decade?
This is something I didn’t think about until we were on the other side of Lilibridge coming toward Portville and I could see the field next to 1063 Lilibridge Road. The feeling was like having a sheet fall over me with holes in the eyes, like I was a ghost staring at the empty house with no lawn decorations as we drove by. For the first time in my life, that house was not Mike’s house.
Everyone references your adult friends now married with kids, but they don’t talk about the adult friends who lived in the same house since you met them in 7th grade.
The drive by lasted 10 seconds and 2 of those were me telling Joe “That was Mike Coon’s house.” 20 years of memories hit me in those 10 seconds. Summers of hanging out by the bonfire or on the porch watching the fireflies; the one rainy day we went on his 4-wheeler by the tracks; Romi & Michele’s High School Reunion and Cherry Falls.
Mike texted me the other day to tell me “Heaven is a Place on Earth” came on and how he always thinks of the helicopter scene in Romi & Michele. I mentioned my similar sentiments about “Time After Time” and about driving by his old house. He said “it’s like we’re ghosting each other in the same town.”
Exactly a week before I left LA, Gaby gave me a tattoo on my back – a ghost. I said something about this being my quintessential LA tattoo, thinking in terms of how common it is ghost in that town, but she laughed and said “Because you’re ghosting us?”
LA is a town full of ghosts – living and dead. People come, people go, people stay, people die, people lose their minds in that city. It’s not for the faint of heart and I’m glad I stayed, but happier I left on my own terms. Now I’m an LA ghost living my best life.