Nine years ago, I came to Los Angeles with a copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” and a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey. I wasn’t here for fame and fortune; I was here for a girl. She picked me up at the airport in her ‘68 VW and first thing we did was drive to the ocean while I shook off my jet lag.
Early in “The Big Sleep,” a chauffeur named Owen Taylor is found dead in his car. This is not considered extraordinary; the role of a driver in a mystery novel is a dangerous fictional occupation. What is exceptional is that the car is found beneath twelve feet of water. Witnesses claim to have seen Taylor drive off of the pier, but he was dead long before his Packard sunk into the Pacific. Poor Owen deserved better, as he was a good man whose only mistake was dreaming too big about the wrong girl.
Chandler neglected to solve the mystery of Taylor’s death. Even William Faulkner (who co-wrote the screen adaptation of “The Big Sleep”) once tried to unravel the mystery and failed.
Standing on the pier overlooking the ocean, I moved past Owen Taylor to the greater mystery of what I was doing here. People come to Los Angeles every day to chase their dreams but I arrived in Los Angeles dreamless and defeated. I was in LA because she was here and because we had known each other too long for me to say goodbye to her. I was here because I was dreaming for something that was hopeless. If I didn’t find something to hold on to it would only be a matter of time before I ended up like Owen Taylor, twelve feet beneath the Pacific Ocean.
We headed home and I took a good look at LA for the first time. Years of being told that Los Angeles was a cultural wasteland had conditioned me to expect the worst, but I found everything I saw to be absolutely perfect. By the time we turned onto the street I was going to live on, I decided that this was where I wanted to stay. For Los Angeles and I, it was love at first sight.
My relationship with the girl who took me to the ocean didn’t last but my love affair with LA is nine years strong. Despite spending two-thirds of my life elsewhere, this is the place that feels most like home. I can’t say exactly why, it just is. I’d have an easier time explaining who killed Owen Taylor in “The Big Sleep”.