My “LA Moment,” What Drove Me to the West

What started out as a desperate need for a brief change of environment ended up being one of the most eye-opening experiences of my adult life.

Here in Los Angeles, everybody has a story; an “LA moment.” Mine began on a whim.

Aside from needing a mental vacation, I was really missing my friend Alex, who had recently moved to Los Angeles, and the gut-busting laughs we’re known for sharing. Looking to find a way to take a trip out there, I learned my friend Bri had an entire bedroom for me to occupy — clutch. With that, I booked my red-eye flight five minutes later. Peace of mind was coming.

I found myself two weeks later at the LAX JetBlue gate, 1 a.m., California time, where I met an exhausted Bri who was kind enough to stay awake and pick me up. We jetted up Fairfax Ave as quickly as possible and both swan-dove into our beds.

The next day was spent walking up and down Melrose Avenue, hitting the local designer consignment shops, hipster niche boutiques, Starbucks (of course), and sneaker stores like Anthem for Bri’s new leopard print Vans, which she rocks hard!

Cruising around The Grove during my Los Angeles vacation. Photo: © TNG

From Melrose, we took a left down Fairfax, passing a huge CBS Studio, ending up at Whole Foods to grab some food and rest our feet. We then decided our next stop had to be the Farmer’s Market — basically an outdoor food court that looks like it works out with Dwayne Johnson twice a day. It’s BIG and it packs a punch!

This place has all sorts of ethnic food stands, specialty product shops, breakfast for dinner, and even some celebrity chef-owned restaurants. The one thing I found to satisfy my craving was Zia Valentina’s granita bar. Granitas are traditional Sicilian ice drinks. Mine was served up in a chocolate shell ice cream cone. DE-licious. Try one if you’re in the area!

Through the Farmer’s Market , I found The Grove — a premier shopping destination and tourist spot in the area with some of my favorite stores. I took a few steps into The Grove and immediately felt like I was at the Magic Kingdom at Disney. Beautiful fixtures in the middle of walkways, a lively, ornate fountain, and above all, everybody seemed really happy!

It was starting to get dark as we entered, and I had no idea what was coming for me.

Now, a little back story on me. My “understanding independence” years were basically spent at the Burlington Mall back home in Massachusetts, a place where I made new friends and began to lay the foundation of adulthood. Not two years later, did I start my first job, at the same mall, at Chick-Fil-A.

For almost a decade, I managed stores, sold products, and made even more new friends in that mall while working at a handful of retailers until moving to the Prudential Center in Boston where it started all over again.

Shopping malls have played a big role in my adult life, which is why it’s only fitting that my LA moment happened at the California version of where I essentially grew into myself.

As I walked through, the most amazing sensation came over me. My ears had tuned out all the sounds around me. I could suddenly feel that my body was warm, unlike the chilly New England I had just left. I could see every person I passed was laughing or smiling with one another and some were talking to people they didn’t even know — they were happy, and I really admired that.

Then, all of a sudden, the big fountain in the center of The Grove lit up with the most amazing light show, and the entire place came alive.

Getting lost in the evening glow at The Grove. Photo via Snapchat: © TNG

Not 24 hours into my vacation, I knew I had to be a part of this place — The Grove, Los Angeles, California, all of it.

And that’s my LA moment. It sounds a lot better when I read it back to myself in George Clooney’s voice, but this moment was the beginning of the next stage in my life.

I still don’t know exactly what Los Angeles has in store for me, but answering that call was the first step in finding out.

The second step was going back home and explaining to my Italian mother that her first-born child, and only son, was moving across the country.

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