Jaci Stephen: Eternal sunshine in LA - or family and friends in Cardiff? I'm still torn

Way Out West
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The Independent Online

Judge Alex Ferrer every lunchtime, all-day marathons of Law and Order, and, at night, the hilarious and sassy Chelsea Handler on the telly.

Sunrise and sunset over LA, beside the pool of my Beverly Hills apartment's huge rooftop terrace. The staff at my favourite local restaurant, Il Pastaio, and most-loved hotel, the Beverly Wilshire.

The almost endless sunshine. Martinique tea at the American Tea Room. The Container Store at Century City. The endless floor-to-floor joy of Bed, Bath and Beyond – best store and service of any in the world.

And Judge Alex. Every day. Yes, I know. I mentioned him. But oh, Judge Alex. Tall. Dark. Handsome. Smart. Funny. Way and above the best and wittiest of the many TV judges on offer – and happily married with kids, alas, but hey ho, a girl can dream.

And will dream. Florida-based Judge Alex. Ex-cop, attorney, and now in robes. Uniform, authority, handcuffs. Call me old-fashioned, but 6,000 miles away from home, a daily dose of the awe-inspiring judge on TV more than makes up for several decades' worth of British guys offering you half a Stella before throwing up their previous 18 over your new dress.

Forget Judge Judy, I am saving up my Air Miles to break the law in Miami, just to get closer to Judge Alex. I'm not looking for life imprisonment, just a slap on the... Well, you get my drift.

Every time I come back to the UK, I add to the list of what I miss about LA. Unfortunately, each time I return, it is usually for a funeral or memorial service, and although I haven't been left anything in anyone's will, some of my dear departed friends are doubtless laughing in their graves at the number of Air Miles I am acquiring on their behalf, even if those miles might land me in jail (bad) or handcuffs (less bad).

It's been a strange week. I missed so much about LA that I put my UK house on the market and thought I would make LA my main base. Then I thought about my wonderful mum and brother, the friends I have spent decades making, and took it off again.

As I was brought back in a wheelchair, after the back problem I wrote about last week, it's been a week of reflection. In the UK, I was told that the drugs I had been given in the US were drugs given to kidney transplant patients (at the last count, I still had two – of my own). My doctor substituted the five lots of medication for a stint of something else, but I am reluctant to be on medication for that long.

Apologies for sounding melodramatic (you can take the girl out of LA...), but is it a metaphorical weight I am carrying, as well as the very real one? One night, I found myself on the driveway of my Cardiff home, crying as I tried to sort the bin bags, because they hadn't been taken the previous week (wrong colour, wrong plastic, wrong handle position – you know what a bloody nightmare putting out your bins in the UK is these days) and wondering: where do I really want to be?

I went to Los Angeles to change my working life, and the man who became my friend and mentor, Blake Snyder, died. I love more and more about the city, and back in Cardiff, I have no real social life. As an older single woman, never married, never co-habited, not a lesbian, I don't get asked anywhere. In LA, I meet gay, straight, couples, singles, all the time, all from different professions, every day. Age never feels an issue. Moving on in my professional life feels like a real possibility and very unlike what seems to be the position in the UK, where everyone appears to be running very hard – just to stand still.

Is this a woman thing? An everyday thing? A worldwide recession thing? I just know that having been in America rather than Europe for the first time in my life, I am reassessing everything, in ways I never believed possible.

The US is an amazing country, with a variety of people, cultures and, in LA, which is pretty much all I know, a heady, inspiring experience. I also know that it can be short-lived. But then, so has everywhere I have ever lived.

I want it all – at the time. I love it all – at the time. Then I want something different. Maybe, what I have discovered, in LA, is that I was right all along: I was born a writer who thrives on change. I just may need a little more time in Judge Alex's handcuffs to reflect on the matter.



To read Jaci Stephen's LA diary in full, go to lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

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