by Benjamin Stevens
I live in New York’s Hudson Valley. It’s an easy train-ride to the city–you know, “The” city, the one that never sleeps–maybe ninety minutes. As the scenery races by, it’s also easy to see why the Valley was home to a whole artistic movement, the Hudson Valley School. The train tracks hug the river, and the views are of the western bank with its faces of weather-beaten granite and shale, the Catskills rounded and indigo against the sky, some of the most impressive suspension bridges there are. Even before there were bridges, the founders of that School felt that this American scenery offered strong competition to European ruins for the title of ‘sublime’.
Closer to my home, the county roads that follow the river north and south are lined with trees. There are old-growth Northern Red oak, white cedar, and stately pitch pine; all together, their roots have patiently, persistently undermined the low walls of flat stones that separate what used to be one great family’s estate from another. There are neat and sprawling apple orchards; walking past at just the right time, the tang of woodsmoke in the air, you can hear the rhythmic and unmetered thunk of tree-ripened apples as they fall. The fall season, itself, is a symphony of colors.
Living in the Hudson Valley, it is, however, not easy to get to Los Angeles. Native New Yorkers, moreover, refuse to make it easier: they’re given to asking, and aggressively asking, _why_. (Often they pause first, give the look of fiercely metropolitan skepticism, and _then_ they ask why.)
Why would you want to go to LA? The greatest city in the world is right here! (This goes double for ‘adopted’ New Yorkers, but these–you know the ones I mean–may be safely ignored.)
It’s a tough question. There is, in fact, a lot not to like about LA as well as ‘SoCal’. (Reminds me of a … I can’t decide: a drink I wouldn’t drink or maybe a medicine I hope I’ll never have to take.) I’m personally very fond of not liking the fact that there really isn’t any public transportation. (But, goes the argument, where would it go? There really isn’t any ‘there’ there.)
Why go to LA? A tough question indeed.
But I’ll give it a shot.
First, picture yourself stepping outside onto an expansive, grassy quadrangle bordered by impressive but approachable buildings in stucco and stone. The surrounding hills are thickly dotted with homes, and everything is golden in the sun that pours in over the ocean like honey. The anemones are astonishingly colorful. Close your eyes; the air is sweet with native sage. Take a moment to realize that it is, in fact, the middle of winter, and yet you are in shirt-sleeves; maybe you even put your shoes in your bag and are now, even now, curling your toes into earth that is soft and warm.
Later, long after the sun has gone down, you and your friends–some familiar, some very new–have spilled down the hills together into town. The only ice is in your drinks. The shops, restaurants, and cafés are open late, and the air is warm and welcoming. If you’re at all like me, you’ve stood in line for a fresh-baked ice-cream cookie sandwich; it cost $2 and may be the most delicious thing you’ve eaten after midnight. It’s that late, and everybody is still not only going strong but going sweet.
And did I mention that some of your newest friends are, let us say, famous people? I’m pretty sure I did. I mean, how could I not mention that you’re living it up long into the LA night with the same amazing people who _blew your mind_ at the professional concert and _changed your life_ during the day’s workshops and masterclasses?
It’s just obvious. We are talking about LAAF, after all.
So, those are some of my reasons; there are more, and one of the pleasures of it all is being surprised by something you didn’t expect. Convinced? Then I’ll see you there. Not convinced? Then come see you for yourself … and maybe you’ll write this post next year, explaining why going to LA in late January for an a cappella festival is [insert your own words here].
See you there!