I've been in Venice 21 days and I am still the New Girl. The simplest and the most complex incidents make me feel this way.
In New York, my exercise life was a hefty, and mostly enjoyable, part of my social life: I would meet my friend Jeffrey for Saturday spin class at Equinox; he'd buy the water, I'd get the green juice. I've befriended the teachers; I watched the World Series with one and spent Christmas Eve with another. I would text my pal Brooke pre-yoga to make sure we both show up, even though we drank wine the night before. It's a well-worn routine and I know the ropes.
In Venice, after a Saturday spin class alone, I duck into the Restroom to change out of my sweaty shirt. As I strip down, I'm naked from the waist up and face to face with a 30-something guy. I realize, with mortification and a touch of resignation, this Restroom is unisex.
I don't know the ropes here. I don't know when and where to cross the street. In New York, like Southeast Asia, we do it wherever we can (granted I was hit by a car on Houston Street in Manhattan one awful night, though I was in the crosswalk). In Venice, my friend and I were "pulled over" by the police for what was apparently J walking across Abbott Kinney at midnight. Another friend tells me if I had been intoxicated that night I could have been thrown in jail. Yet we were in front of the very "Farmacy" that legally sells pot and seems packed every weekend. Okay.
I make plans with would-be friends through what feels like hundreds of emails to meet for coffee at Abbott's Habit or Wall-to-Wall Facebook posts about Sunday brunch at Hal's. Looking at my Mac Calendar I have the best social life a New Girl could have; Red for New Contacts, Green for Work Leads, Blue for Old Pals. But alas, one by one, the coffees and lunches are cancelled by last minute email, or on my Facebook Wall for all of my New York friends to see, or worse, I just never hear from the dinner date at all. Three cancellations in the past 24 hours. Is this an L.A. thing I should know about? Is making the plan itself enough human contact? Call me old-fashioned, but I like the in-person situation, you know, face-to-face talking. Luckily my Old Pals seem to feel the same way I do.
I borrow a bike but can't manage it. The basket is too big, where do you find air for the tires? How do I tell my neighbors to stop their dogs from treating my front lawn as a toilet? Do you just drive around to find the Yard Sales? Does anyone deliver dinner? After trying to spend exactly $2.50 everywhere I go, I finally realize that quarters for parking are available in rolls at the bank.
Of course these are small, inconsequential things--made into mountains as receptacles for my anxiety about the big things. Like, how does anyone find work here? Why does this bungalow cost more than my New York City apartment? What is my plan? What's going on in the world? What am I doing here? Am I on vacation?
Then I realize that last part is what I love about being in Venice. That vacation feeling and the low stress that goes with it. Friends of my family that I've known forever stop by to check out my bungalow. They're on a Southern California trip with their three kids. They're taking a guided tour of Los Angeles with some guy in a 1964 Cadillac convertible (and I actually think to myself, "Wow, what a great idea for a business," and stop myself before venturing, "I wish I had thought of that!"); they've been to La Jolla, San Diego, Disneyland and Warner Brothers. Their vacation is a blast. They tell me how relaxed I look. Then ask what so many New Yorkers ultimately wonder, "Why doesn't everyone live here?"
My current plan is to stop sabotaging my incredibly precious time here by worrying about how to pay for it. I'm repeating to myself, "If it's right, it will work." I don't know these ropes either, but I'm going to learn them.