For me, imagining a vacation is almost as enjoyable as the vacation itself, regardless of how the vacation ends up. I’m heading to California in June, and am looking forward to some quality time with friends, family and The Mouse.

I envision walking barefoot down the beach at Santa Barbara, but know I’ll end up spending a half hour in the bathtub trying to remove all the beach tar with Vaseline. I imagine endless parties with friends and family, but know I’ll end up watching way too much daytime TV. And even though I’ve done the return home n-number of times, I never seem to learn.

I love California to the marrow of my bones, and even when I hear stories like the one posted over at Gridskipper about a super-snotty LA restaurant (via Scott MacMillan), I still want to go, just so I can experience it firsthand.

As LA resident Tony Pierce once said, ‘It’s LA. Gotta front.’

I’m so looking forward to seeing friends, but have to put my ‘gotta-front’ face on. Maybe it’s something like Pražaci and their ‘metro face’. Try as I may to make goofy faces on the metro just to break things up a bit, inevitably my metro face returns.

An inevitable LA question is, ‘So, what do you do?’ And when I tell them that I live in Prague and develop open source software, the response is an ‘oh,’ uttered, as J.K. Rowling once put it, like when you step in something unpleasant.

I actually had a costume designer do an about-face on me mid-sentence when I started answering her question.

But I keep planning, and my mind runs through any number of variations on my idealized return. Maybe the problem is that I know it’s illusionary, but love it for its illusion.

Some of the happiest days of my life were spent with my roommate Denis in Westwood, as we went on a summer-long quest to find the illusory soul of LA.

For example, one night we sat in our friend’s hot tub in Beverly Hills overlooking the city, thinking things couldn’t get any more LA, when an earthquake happened. ‘LA!’ we said, high-fiving.

A couple of weeks later we met Stacy Sullivan and her two French exchange student friends and took them to a Dodger game, where we tried to explain the rules of baseball to them, only to have both pitchers throw no-hitters into the 10th inning; Dennis Rodriguez of the Expos actually did throw the no-hitter that day.

The French exchange students said: ‘We do not understand zees beisbol. It ees so boring.’ ‘LA!’ we screamed and high-fived each other.

Maybe it was then that it hit me. Geography never really changes mentality. Fucked up people on a trip are just as fucked up when they get home. People who go somewhere thinking it will make them a different person inevitably leave disappointed, whether it’s to Prague or Saigon or Guatemala City.

Or LA.

The trick is to let the place come to you, as you are.

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