prettyville

I stumbled onto Prettyville on Christmas Eve.

I'd closed the store alone, a little earlier than even I'd gotten permission to. A few last-minute customers had wandered up, looking hesitant and slightly sheepish, like they knew we should all be someplace better, and felt equal parts guilty and defiant. Well, you're here too, so do your job and feed me. 

But I was uncharacteristically firm, shutting the lights and shaking my head. With a feeling of beneficence, I dismissed the crew and bundled up for the walk home.

I'm used to Christmases alone. My family's been gone for a while, and boyfriends are usually with theirs. This was the first one without Chaucer, though. That was a bit rough. Still, it's really not so bad. The streets are bright but calm, everyone indoors already celebrating or gearing up to. I have the place to myself.

Timo was of course in Germany, though this time our separation was under vastly different circumstances. This time, it wasn't breakup and heartbreak; this time, it was just a visit home. He was coming back to me, and to us.

The thought of that was brightness and calm, too.

The gym was closed, naturally, and naturally it being so made me want a run even more. But there is no running in K-town. There is not even texting-and-walking in K-town. The sidewalks are absolutely treacherous, and demand one's full attention. Still, I figured if I stayed on the actual streets (there being no traffic anyway), I could minimize my chance of face-planting and phone-shattering.

I ran west on 4th.

I love my neighborhood not because it is any thing of beauty - it is not, though it has many fun, funky little pockets of color and culture. I love it because it's here that I picked myself back up again, when everything went to shit. K-town gave me shelter and safety while I licked my wounds and accepted my new realities.

But yes: it's a crowded, cramped, and occasionally crazy mess, and in my free time I almost always hop on the train or bus, or jump in an Uber and leave it. And until Christmas Eve, those are the only ways I'd ever left it. I'd never actually walked my way out of it.

Well.

I didn't know exactly what lay exactly west of me, literally up the street I live on, because I'd only ever headed west along the very busy thoroughfares of Wilshire, or Third, or Beverly. And while I knew that somewhere in that general direction was a very lovely neighborhood I sometimes rode through, I didn't have my precise bearings on what or where.

Prettyville is Hancock Park. Hancock Park is, in my opinion, the most breathtakingly beautiful neighborhood in Los Angeles. I've been to every gorgeous little beach town on the coast. I know enough of Echo Park and Silverlake and Los Feliz to appreciate how delightful they are. I worked in Beverly Hills and Bel Air. I think the Hollywood Hills are stunning - as is Eagle Rock. And Timo and I walk the handsome residential streets of his own West Hollywood all the time.

Hancock Park blows them all away. It is unlike anything I have ever seen.

Maybe it's the midwesterner in me. Maybe it's the OCD in me. Maybe it was the fact that it was Christmas Eve, and many of the homes were aglow with carefully strung, twinkling lights. But I was gobsmacked. Block after block of jaw-dropping, multi-level mansions (most, I've since learned, built in the 1920s). Sprawling, immaculately maintained lawns with thoughtfully designed landscaping. Stone walls and high hedges. Ivy and thick-limbed trees. The roads themselves wide, tree-lined, and lit with old-fashioned street lamps. The contrast between what I'd just left and what I'd just found - it was like stumbling into a movie set. My eyes popping out of my head, I slowed from a jog to a crawl as I took it all in.

Prettyville was dead empty that misty holiday night. Alone with my thoughts, my wonder, and my breath coming in little puffs, I fell in love. I'd never want to live in Prettyville - not without a team of housekeepers and interior designers to unburden me of the stress of trying to Fit In and Keep Up. But holy shit. What a treasure, right under my nose.

I've since made night runs in Prettyville an occasional thing, when I'm not feeling the ugliness of the gym and the monotony of the treadmill. Only nights, though; that's when it's most magical to me. It is always so quiet, so still. I rarely see anyone walking around. Never anyone else jogging. Hardly any cars pass through. It's kind of unbelievable, like a secret I can't believe hasn't gotten out. Every time I'm there I half-expect to be apprehended. Thrown out, for not belonging. Excuse me, ma'am, this area is for successful people only. You'll need to leave immediately. 

Prettyville doesn't make me pine for more, though. It's aspirational, sure, but not because it oozes wealth. It's the peacefulness of the place I'd want for myself. The lack of chaos, at the end of what I have to imagine are some very long days. Prettyville mortgages can't come cheap.

My heart does ache a little when I think of how much Chaucer would have loved it. I can see him trotting along its smooth, straight sidewalks, holding his head high to look left then right. He was always curious but fearless in a new place. Sniffing the air, tall and regal, but with his wonderfully goofy face. I wish it could have been a Christmas present for both of us.