Meanwhile, in L.A.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Here’s what it looked like a few hours ago as we descended on Runway 24L at LAX. Just as soon as the Dreamliner’s wheels touched down on the brightly lit tarmac, did the familiar sense of coming home arrive. It’s hard to explain, let alone convey in writing. I can feel like this in other places, too. Such is the constant traveler’s dilemma. Where is home?

After an extremely smooth immigration process, at least for Elle and myself with our shiny new US passports, the family entered a comfy ÜberX and thereafter the Sri Lankan driver took us straight to our Airbnb apartment on Pacific Avenue. It’s got this perfect address just north of Washington Boulevard near the Venice Beach Pier, a mere block west of the popular Venice Canals (made even more famous by the tv show Californication).

I’ve been a big fan of Airbnb for a half dozen years now and all three of us were positively surprised at how spacious and well-equipped the flat we’ve rented turned out to be. In addition to a large living room, we’ve also got two reasonably big bedrooms, each with ensuite bathrooms, and a kitchen with pretty much everything we need to cook during our week-long stay here.

After unpacking and getting somewhat organized, Elle and I took another Über up to Lincoln and Rose where “our” Whole Foods store is located – just to get something for a late and light evening meal and, more importantly, essentials for tomorrow’s breakfast. Of course, once we got there, the Whole Foods seduction process effectively set in and before we knew it, our cart was overflowing with a bounty of deliciousness. Always a pleasure to contribute to the bustling US economy.

Like with most folks, how I feel about my old hometown is a mixed bag of emotions. Growing up here was often tumultuous, to say the least, and I wish that at least some of my most vivid memories, nightmares really, could forever be forgotten. With age, I’m sure they increasingly will. One of few benefits of growing older. As bad as it often was, there were still some highlights. But in all honesty, I’ve had considerably more fun here as an adult than as a kid. Such is life.

Obviously, much has changed in LA. since the mid to late 70s. Especially in West Hollywood where I grew up. Tower Records on Sunset is gone and the Bowling Alley on Santa Monica where friends and I used to hang after school, has long, long been replaced. As is the amusement park Kiddyland and Ponyland off La Cienega and Beverly. Heck, those places were torn down probably 40 years ago. The famously seedy Barney’s Beanery on Santa Monica continues to do business near the old IHOP – and my old elementary schools Saint Victor’s and Rosewood are still around. Sadly though, most of my old buddies have either moved away or fallen into obscurity. At least in my universe.

We’re heading to Fairfax High School’s weekend flea market later today and through the classic Farmer’s Market was mostly absorbed by flashy strip mall The Grove several decades ago, I can still walk around parts of the old market and recognize myself. And as far as I know, Canter’s Deli is still around just up the street.

Out here on the coast, changes are much subtler and less visually disruptive. Which is probably why I insist on staying in this part of L.A. each time we’re here to work and play. Everything is just so comfortably, almost numbingly familiar. The fresh, salty breeze, wide, sandy beach, the busy bike path, a faint smokey smell of ancient tar coming from under Santa Monica pier, the light blue hues hovering gently just above the Pacific. It’s all the same – just as I remember it from way back when. It’s like a mental tattoo that has only faded a little.

– From a jetlagged Joakim