There are no mountains in Missouri. People kept asking me what I thought of Los Angeles, and that’s all I could say. We’ve got one mountain. It’s more of a hill, if we’re being completely honest, and I’ve never even been there.
So for me to stand on Mulholland with my best friend and stare down at one of the world’s largest cities, all small and twinkly below me… Well, it’s hard not to feel like you’re the queen of the world.
I met Alex Tashman at what I refer to as journalism geek camp. I’ve blogged about that summer and her in the past, but we’ve come a long way from Fourth of July fireworks on the shores of Lake Michigan. Tashman, who was born and raised in L.A., and I bonded when she tripped and knocked a stack of dirty plates on top of me in the cafeteria on the first day, and from that point on, she became my go-to gal, my closest confidante and my best friend.
This girl and I couldn’t have more different backgrounds, and yet, improbably, she understands me better than the people I see everyday. I’ve never had a relationship like this with anyone, be it friend, family or significant other — let alone a friend who lives two time zones away.
I don’t believe in soul mates or anything, but I know I believe in Alex Tashman.
So, when Alex’s mom contacted me about flying out to LA for a few days before Alex’s birthday, I couldn’t get the word “yes” out of my mouth fast enough. The last time I got to give my best friend a hug was in April 2011, when a high school journalism conference brought me to Anaheim and she drove up to see me. It had been more than a year and a half of Skype dates and after-midnight phone calls, and when I walked into her bedroom last month, I thought she was going to drop dead of shock.
After she pulled herself together and was finally able to speak, she showed me a Word doc she had saved on her computer, detailing the multiple places she would take me if I ever came to L.A. It was color coded. Of course.
She kept asking me if there was anything in particular I wanted to do while there, and I told her the truth: It was all so foreign that I’d be happy doing anything. She couldn’t care less about the celebrity culture she grew up in, and she never brings it up, but occasionally she’ll let slip that her mom once dated Nicolas Cage or Harrison Ford told her she was a cute baby in a Starbucks years ago, much to my delight. She grew up in a city where famous roads wind through famous canyons, a far cry from the plains of Missouri. For a girl like me, L.A. was as foreign as Narnia, a mythical place where it was always warm and starlets wearing oversized sunglasses sipped overpriced coffee.
We went to museums and observatories and improv shows, and I celebrated my first Hanukkah. We also ate very, very well. (She took me to strange coffee shops and the best burger places I’d ever been to. That girl knows me well.) But my favorite moment of this trip, the one I’ll keep with me until the day I die? Windows down, driving down the 405 (or the 101… or whatever. The whole time I felt like I was in “The Californians,” that instant-classic SNL sketch from a few months back. “Devan, I said get on the on-ramp to the 405 and GET OUTTA HERE!”).
Alex is one of the few people I know who not only has good taste in modern music, but excellent taste in music, pre-1987 or so. I knew we’d be friends at Cherubs when she played Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin,’” and a girl nearby asked if this was that song by John Mayer. Alex immediately threw her out of the room. So when, we were flipping through her 80’s playlist, stuck in traffic, and The Outfield classic “Your Love” came through her speakers, we looked at each other wordlessly, cranked the volume and shrieked at the top of our lungs (I’d say sang, but it was really more like shrieking), “JOSIE’S ON A VACATION FAR AWAAAY. COME AROUND AND TALK IT OVERRRR.’
I knew, right then, that we understood each other. It had been a year-and-a-half since we had seen each other in person, but she was still my best friend in the entire world.
As I write this, I’m flying home, 30,000 feet above what looks to be Kansas. The clouds are hanging low and the sun’s at our back, so everything below is a dusty blue. And as I post this, I’m curled in bed on a cold Illinois night. It’s good to be back. But all I know for sure is that right now, I miss the mountains of Southern California and a girl who lives there. Love you, Alex.
P.S. Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference to this post’s title. Here’s a hint.