What does it mean when a place calls to you? That it’s where you were born and have your roots, and where you always feel at home and need to return? That it’s where you met the most-loved person or people in your life and constantly feel that bond pulling you back? Or that it’s the place where you’ve finally found the elusive piece of happiness or peace for which you’ve been searching your entire life?
None of the above, maybe; all of the above, perhaps; or some of the above, most likely. And when it comes to those three options, it’s the last that resounds the most with me.
“There are places I remember / All my life though some have changed,” wrote Lennon and McCartney – and it seems that the more trips around the sun I take, the more those words ring true. To wit:
While I spent the first 35+ years of my life as a New Yorker, that city is not one of those special places for me. My years there, while formative, were not the times I recall first when I think of where it is that makes me happy; the city itself, while arguably one of the world’s greatest, simply does not hold the piece of my heart that it once might have. Do I miss my dear friends who live in the area? Of course. But New York City itself – the place where my career took root, where I grew up socially and emotionally, where I took advantage of all the culture a city might offer – isn’t the place I yearn to go anymore, nor is it the center of my universe. Despite the often-heard adage, you can take the girl out of New York and yes, you can take some of New York out of the girl. The memories, no; the attitude, actually, quite a bit; the belief that it’s home – those feelings have faded (the love for NY pizza notwithstanding).
No one was more surprised than I was to learn that California is where I’m supposed to be. All the sunshine. All the color. All the natural beauty. All the brilliant light. Something about living here just feels right. Los Angeles has its own vibe – its own bright energy – that feels like the sun to me. Literally. It has given me the warmth to bloom. It’s a hard-to-describe feeling of being comfortable in my own skin here and of feeling my creativity take hold in a different way than ever before. What LA lacks, though, is an outer peacefulness that allows for a greater inner peace. It’s busy and it’s crowded (think of all those shoulder-to-shoulder NY subway riders and now put them bumper to bumper on 5- and 6-lane freeways) and the air quality can certainly use some work. But it’s home – imperfectly, improbably, impressively – home. It calls, and I answer (the Lakers’ last season notwithstanding).
But when it comes to the place that beckons me time and time again, that title would have to go to San Francisco and the Bay Area. As readers of this blog know, San Francisco itself is my single favorite place in the world – I was caught up in its magic as a little girl and it continues to enchant me each time we visit (and we visit almost every year). It’s no surprise that I set my novel there and no surprise that my face lights up each time we arrive, even if we’re just driving through. B. has actually determined that my smile quotient is higher and more consistent when we’re there – and, as he usually is about these things, he’s completely right. The breathtaking beauty of the entire area – from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands to Muir Woods to towns like Sebastopol to the north; to the gorgeous coastline of Pacifica and the gem that is Half Moon Bay to the south – all combine to call my name and welcome me. With absolute joy (all outstanding).
Places, every one.
©2022 Claudia Grossman