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L.A. Affairs: What am I doing here, I thought — until spotting a shirtless dude by the pool

(Daniel Fishel / For The Times)

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My first spot in L.A. looked like a scene from “Melrose Place.” Two stories, old motel style, courtyard in the middle. A wedge of sun-kissed paradise. As I unloaded stuff from my newly acquired Toyota pickup (a parting gift from an ex-boyfriend), I wondered just how I’d fit in here, this place called Studio City, where the streets are wide and everyone’s hair is the color of spun gold.

With my black outfit, chunky shoes and the veneer of New York still on me, I thought, “What the hell am I doing here?”

Then I saw him, from across the pool. The guy who would teach me about forever. He was lounging in a yellow chair, rolling a tobacco cigarette. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. Or shoes. But he was wearing a guitar, and shards of daylight were bouncing off it.

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Being a straightforward person, I wanted to know if the chef wanted to come back to my hotel. The next day I asked him if he’d be back for Round 2.

March 22, 2024

I pretty much skipped over to him. Not because he was a near replica of the Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” but because he was my new neighbor — and quite possibly the only person who would ever understand me. “So what do people do for fun around here?” The sound of my voice surprised me, as I’d taken on the throaty rasp of a 1940s bombshell. Damn.

Too East Coast, I thought, wishing I’d kept my mouth shut. But the dude was smiling, and his eyes twinkled like moonbeams hitting sand. The next day, we were laughing over margaritas at Casa Vega about our mutual love for “Freaks,” a movie from 1932 whose main characters were members of a carnival sideshow. “To freaks,” he said, raising a glass. “A love story.”

After that, we ordered nachos, discussed the meaning of life, and danced to a bluesy version of “Suzie Q” at a local dive bar on Whitsett. The dude knew where to go. He took me to places that had staying power. And that’s what I was craving: things that could hold up over time. In a land of ephemeral coffee shops, I wanted something solid. Something that would stick around for a good long while. The dude showed me that L.A. — the parts often seen on celluloid — making it effortless for me to settle in.

A week later, he showed up with a frozen turkey. “Hey, hey, do you need poultry?” It was near Thanksgiving, so this wasn’t too weird an ask.

“Sure, I’ll take some poultry,” I said with a shrug.

“Dope,” he said and walked away with perfect posture.

I was attending college when a lonely Mr. C asked me to dinner as a thank-you for taking care of his children.

March 15, 2024

The next time I saw him, he gave me a Slinky. Because this was my favorite toy, the dude and I fell in love. No words were spoken. We just knew. Soon he began to share his world with me: his friends, his family, his German shepherd Sam.

I met his mother, an ex-movie starlet who’d lived the Hollywood dream in the late ‘60s, as depicted through old photos on a stucco wall. She’d dated Brando and Dylan and had stories to tell — ones worth telling — and I wanted every detail.

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Overnight I’d acquired an instant family, a new tribe or maybe an old one that I had belonged to since the dawn of time. I was now part of the Angelenos, a special breed of artists, who’d lived here their entire lives. My feelings of aloneness vanished.

Then, one night, the dude drove us to the top of Mulholland and told me he loved me. Though it had been implied for months, our union was now official. He’d solidified it, right there, with the lights of the San Fernando Valley bearing witness. The dude was spontaneous — and romantic.

He would call me at work to recite poems by Neruda, a thing we often did before bed. “Hi, just need to tell you this,” he’d say, “I love your feet, because they walked upon the earth and upon the wind and upon the waters, until they found me.”

I keep calling Scott, a man I loved so completely I felt whole, by my ex’s name, Paul. Is there a deeper meaning behind my slipups?

March 8, 2024

From there, our courtship went into super bloom, as we hit every museum, club, concert and pizza place in the Southland. And on summer nights, we camped at Point Dume, where I experienced my first algae bloom, a thing that sometimes happens when placid water is gently disturbed, creating sparkly green particles.

This phenomenon is intoxicating, making it easy to believe in forever. Ripping through emerald waves, hand in hand, it seemed that the dude and I might stay this way until the end of time. “Let’s be like this forever,” I suggested, drying off in a wool poncho.

“Ahhh,” he said, “Nothing’s forever. You know that, right?”

My heart sank to my feet (the feet he’d professed to worship), which were buried under a mound of sand alongside his. He tried to straighten the wheel by saying, “I mean, according to Buddhists, permanence isn’t really a thing.” Then he kissed me and all the noise of the ocean disappeared.

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A month later we moved in together. Our new home was an Art Deco flat in East Hollywood, drenched in colored lights and paper lanterns. We cooked Bolognese sauce there and wrote songs. We were hip and cool and inseparable, and we explored every corner of old Hollywood, from Musso & Frank to Yamashiro.

We carried on this way for years. And for nearly a decade, in the gentle hum of Little Armenia, we helped each other grow. The dude and I became adults together.

But even with all that adulting, cooking, monogamy and poetry, the dude still couldn’t promise forever. And sometimes, when I told him I loved him, he would simply reply, “Thanks,” and go back to strumming an acoustic guitar.

After a tough conversation followed by our breakup, my boyfriend left without telling me. He even took the shower curtain.

March 1, 2024

The illusion of permanence was slipping from me, at a rate I was less than comfortable with. The more I wished for eternal romance, the more I noticed his condescending tone — and sideways glances. And there was the uncanny way he ignored street cleaning signs and trash days. The way the dude stirred his coffee, clanking his spoon against his cup an excessive amount of times before taking a sip, became grounds for my full-blown meltdowns, which I started having on the regular.

Then one day, with the sky cloaked in heavy marine layer, we broke up. Just like that. On the eve of our 10th anniversary. Not because we didn’t love each other but mostly because nothing lasts forever, as the dude had once speculated. So, after a river of tears and many love songs, he moved out. And we promised to remain friends. Forever.

***

It’s been 20 years since the dude and I ended our love affair, and those iconic spots he turned me on to are still around. Much like our friendship, they’ve stood the test of time, remaining stable amid an ever-changing landscape.

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As friends, we share a unique connection, not unlike the one we had before: We still write songs and discuss the meaning of life together. We still celebrate holidays together. His family is still my family, his friends are still my friends. We know every secret, private joke and pet peeve about each other , based on memories woven so deeply into the L.A. backdrop, they can’t be undone. And though he no longer calls me at work to recite Neruda, the dude and I still enjoy a margarita together every now and then.

The author is a playwright, storyteller and lover of frogs. She lives in Marina del Rey. She’s on Instagram: @nadeencurrie

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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