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Finding our way in L.A. and in life

Yesterday I was on my way to Fryman Canyon for a hike, and a young couple in a car stopped me and asked for directions to Venice Beach. I wondered how could they have ended up there on Laurel Canyon, wanting to find their way to a place so far from the valley as the beach. They only had a travel book with a very general map of the city showing only a few freeways, and no GPS.

I got the impression they might be from another country. Perhaps a place like Norway or Scotland, as far as I could make from their light complexion and slightly reddish hair. They seemed like two gentle souls fallen here, in this big city of Los Angeles, from a distant planet nobody has ever heard of. It’s as if the grown-up little prince had decided to return to Earth with his rose, now turned into a beautiful woman, to show her the places he had traveled to as a child.

They were looking at me with inquiring and trusting eyes: “can you help us find our way?“ I looked around, searching an imaginary map in my mind, and figured they might as well continue the way they were going. I couldn’t picture this peaceful couple turning back and find themselves on an ugly freeway, surrounded by impetuous drivers in a hurry, trying to find the right exit with only a vague map in their hands.

I visualized for a minute the vastness of the city on the other side of the canyon and how they could cross that maze and somehow find their way to the ocean without getting lost. Then it occurred to me they could follow Sunset, the one boulevard in this metropolis that reaches from downtown to the water like one long stretched arm. So I told them “keep going, drive up the hill and then down. The first big boulevard you’ll see at the bottom is Sunset. Make a right and stay on it, it will take you right to the water. It’s a much prettier ride than the freeways, and the best chance to avoid getting lost. Once you’re there go left and stay along the ocean, with a short drive on the PCH you’ll reach Venice.“ They looked at me, relieved and thankful. I smiled and wished them luck.

I woke up this morning with a lingering memory of this brief encounter, wondering if they were like two angels sent to me with a hidden message. Perhaps the unknown city means life, and we’re here like these two innocent souls, not knowing where we are, wanting to find our way to a specific destination, having only a vague map in our hands. Turning back would be a stressful unpleasant experience and simply get us lost even more.

If we stop and ask for help, a local resident will tell us the best way is to keep going on our path and find that scenic boulevard leading to the ocean, winding its way across the beautiful parts of town. That it’s best to follow it and enjoy the view without hurry. We might cross the freeway again on the way, but if we are tempted to take it to get there faster, instead of that it would certainly lead us astray, and we’d end up in a completely undesirable place. If we confidently follow the boulevard, even if at times it feels like it’s taking a few detours, we will surely get to where we want to go. Once there, as long as we remain by the ocean we will be guided to our final destination.

I hope the couple found Sunset, followed it to the ocean and ended up in Venice Beach. Most of all though, I hope they saw an attractive side of the city on their way there, perhaps stopping to visit the historical Beverly Hills hotel, or to have coffee in the Pacific Palisades. Whatever adventures they might have been on, I hope they had a fabulous day.

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