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How I turned Los Angeles into a small town for me

I really am a small town person. I grew up in Minneapolis, so I'm "Minnesota friendly" and some of my best memories are of visiting my grandmother in Bovey. Like her, I'm a "homely person" (yes, she often said that of herself - but she knew she was being funny), I like a small group of friends, I like my neighborhood, my local businesses. I'm no dazzling urbanite!

But after I got my degree at ASU, Phoenix felt too small to me. I wanted to go to "the big city", and that's Los Angeles to me. So I gathered up my earthly belongings (which wasn't much) and moved to LA. And it was awful. It was so crowded, and so noisy, and there was so much traffic. I felt like I was in a beehive, and no one seemed to know anyone else. I got what I called the "LA hee bee jee bees", which was a feeling of being overwhelmed by all of it.

My solution was history adventuring, which I still do now, although it's not quite as a medical necessity for me, living in a quiet suburb of Glendale, Arizona. And I remember the exact moment when it started, at the library in Hollywood in Beachwood Canyon. I glanced over at a photo on the wall and I saw the Hollywoodland sign in the 1920s. And I thought "was it ever like that?"

Of course it was. And whenever I got the LA hee bee jee bees I would go to all of the wonderful places that I was discovering. Places that had been there, since, like forever. I went to Los Encinos, I went to the La Brea Tar Pits. Someone recommended Raymond Chandler to me, and in my imagination I turned my Los Angeles to his, in the 1940s.

I talked to the locals. I was extremely interested in people who had grown up there. They had played there as children. I found the local restaurants - you know, the ones that only the locals knew about. I got to practice some of my Spanish. I ate pizza with so many jalapeƱos on them, it made my ears ring.

I carved out a very tiny area that I knew well. I learned it the way a kid on his bike learns the streets of his neighborhood. Anything beyond there I didn't pay attention to. I walked over to the little convenience store a couple of blocks away from apartment and I bought a Coke. Every day. I smiled at people, I said hello.

I'm glad I lived in Los Angeles. If I hadn't moved to the big city I would have regretted it all of my life. But my Los Angeles is a small town, otherwise I wouldn't have survived there.

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