When I first moved from Chicago to LA, there was a lot to get used to. The helicopters, the billboards everywhere, the crosswalks in the middle of the street, the strip malls, the roads that defy the common sense of a proper city grid, empty sidewalks and shops that don't open until 11, the homeless that approach you not for money but to dance with you (3xs this has happened!), and the fact that all the stores in my neighborhood do not sell what their name clearly implies (Any coffee in the coffee house? No, it's thai food. Any gems in the gem shop? No, it's VHS cassettes). It. Didn't. Make. Sense.
I've always thought that the best way to get to know a city is to walk it. So this is what I did for the first couple months. I stuck to the main streets at first and, eventually, I started to wander through neighborhoods and allow myself to get lost. I tried to learn the patchwork grid by paying attention to the apartment building numbers. I like the apartment buildings in my neighborhood. I like their boxy style and their fancy names, making them sound much grander than they ever will be. Thee Ocean Aire has 20 garbage cans in front of it and a dude that will list all the different models of cars that he knows for as long as you'll let him. And now: I don't even hear the helicopters anymore, most of my favorite spots are hidden in strip malls and I like the elusiveness, winding roads that take me far from my intended destination just open the city up even more, and if I walk into "Lamps and More," and all they sell is teapots, well, maybe it's a good day to buy a teapot.
My apartment number is written in stained glass.