Out of Step

I have been keenly aware of rhythm as long as I can remember. Coming from a musical and academic family, there was rhythm in song and in marching band, of course, and rhythm in the year, with its quiet summers and busy falls. It was easy to keep in time when the downbeats were so prominent.

I have not found the beat in Los Angeles yet. It is imperceptible to me so far. LA is not, technically speaking, a college town. Not the way Ann Arbor is, anyway. There is no dramatic swing in social motion from on to off just because school is in or out.

The constant sunshine is blissful, and to the casual observer, it would seem there are no seasons here. I don't even look at the weather report anymore. Abundant sunshine - that's all it usually says. [There are seasons, of course, but they are subtle, and must be watched carefully lest you miss them.]

Even the work day is fluid and mutable, seemingly without the factory shift whistles of my rustbelt upbringing. The freeways are as busy at 11am as 8am as 6pm as 3pm. In traffic-light controlled downtown, 30 minutes of intervalic car horns signal the end of the work day, but I don't get the sense that brief and well-defined midwestern-style 'rush hours' are a city-wide phenomenon.

photo by John Henderson

And so I have been muddling along, marching without a beat, dancing without a rhythm, all with predictably halting and unsteady results.

I've been resisting imposing what I perceive as a random or arbitrary rhythm on my personal routines. Like doing a weights workout on Wednesdays because, well, because that's when I've been doing them.

But since I'm having such trouble tuning into the natural rhythm of Los Angeles, I am trying to embrace these arbitrary beats for the time being. Making things up. Thursdays are art days. Mondays are business days. Sundays are quiet days. Evenings begin when the sun goes down, mornings begin when it comes up.

I am hoping that in the same way I can see the seasons here if I sit quietly and look carefully, that eventually the rhythm of this city will become perceptible and I can weave my personal rhythms into its meter and cadence. I would love to be a better dance partner for this amazing and bewildering place.