Chapter 1: LA to Leeds

One cat’s dead, so I might as well let the other one out of the bag.

The dead one, that’s my cat: Nietzsche. My baby. My anchor. The most adorable, sweetest, nicest, loveliest cat on earth. I would say „he didn’t deserve to die young“, but then… well, fuck, I’m not the one making the rules.

Anyway. I loved this cat. And I brought him to Los Angeles with me just a few months ago… when he died there I wasn’t with him.

I was in Europe again dealing with film things and – quite honestly – also taking a break from LA, because while it’s got great weather and everything… I’ve been faking a truly emotional bond with the city of angels. Maybe I’m just not holy enough.

So ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a new chapter in my life, where I – the official nomad – settle down. When I talk about settling down though, I don’t mean it in a „settle for less“ kind of way. I mean I’m gonna put down some motherfuckin’ roots.

In Yorkshire. Beautiful England that I’ve come to love somewhat unexpectedly.

When I lived in London I made a point of keeping my American accent active, so everyone would recognise me as exactly that: Just a traveller, passing through.

Now I am finding myself sorting through my vocabulary and replacing „apartment“ with „flat“, „washcloth“ with „flannel“ and „pants“ with „trousers“. And of course, a purse no longer holds all my belongings, but only just my money. So I guess, in more way than one, I’m also „downsizing“ while finally upgrading the quality of my life.

This move, this choice this time is for me. Not for work. Not because it’s where I should be, but because I lay awake plagued by jetlag one night after coming from LA to Europe and just thought to myself: Okay, self, I’m gonna move to Leeds. Ready?


So now that’s settled: Putting either of the two labels „California Girl“ or „Yorkshire Lass“ on myself is probably gonna get me stoned by a few people. Thing is, by birth, I qualify as neither.

I am actually German. I am in fact as German as it gets. No immigrant background whatsoever over at least the last six generations or so. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are immigrants in my family – only, they migrated out of Germany to Sweden, England and Switzerland. My great-grandfather was temporarily hanging out in the Baltic states (and by hanging out I mean he was a pastor at a German church there), so my grandma was actually born in Latvia, but, as she once so exquisitely, and mildly possibly racistly put it: A pig that’s born in a cow’s barn is still a pig. See? So German.

(PS: Don’t you dare judge my grandma now though! She was still one of the most badass women of her generation and when it really came down to it she was actually extremely generous and welcoming to everyone… even though she did have a rating system to judge all my piano teachers based on their attractivenes. She did have a big heart and I learned a great deal from her.)

My mum, kind of like me, once upon a time set out to live in America and – very much unlike me – got married to a Yankee fella (this is the first time in my life I am using both either these words). He died way too soon after they got married though, so she went back to Germany, taking with her only his last name… which ironically is now my last name, too, because my parents weren’t married at the time when I was born (I was my dad’s best man, when they eventually tied the knot!), plus my dad’s last name has a somewhat religious ring to it and both my parents are really, really not into church stuff.

I had this fantasy for a while, of how it would be nice, since I always kind of felt like my mum and I sort of borrowed this name from the States, to eventually „give it back“ by getting married to an American an therefore leaving the old name behind where it originally came from… So in a way I am now joining the queue (yeah, queue, not line! See how quickly I’m learning!) of people in LA waiting for a dream-fullfillment to be handed to them, who eventually realise that LA is really more about the experience of standing in line (oops) and the people you meet in the waiting room than about the actual fulfillment of what you’re waiting for. Don’t get me wrong: I’m NOT saying the American Dream and it’s fulfillment don’t exist in LA. I know they do and I do know quite a few people who came there and succeeded at exactly what it was they set out to do. I am not saying Hollywood fame is a scam – to the contrary, I think like pretty much any other line of work, if you keep taking the steps day by day towards your desired dream life, chances that you will succeed eventually are way higher than the average pessimist would have you believe… but that being said, the experience of film and fame – that’s not really tied to LA in any way. It’s not the average experience there and it’s not exclusive to LA either. I know of just as many people who are on high demand in Hollywood, who never lived there and built their careers somewhere else.

How many of those did so in Leeds?

None that I know personally.

I like to be first at stuff or at least live in the illusion that I’m first at something. So there you go. Maybe I’ll be first to re-establish Leeds as the new Hollywood (re-establish because, did you know that the very first film footage was shot it Leeds?)

When I bring this up, Ygritte (=my best friend and that’s not her real name but I’m calling her Ygritte for reasons of a) privacy and b) fun!) keeps reminding me that I might not actually WANT that. That I want to build a LIFE (as in a private life. God how I’ve sucked at that recently) in Leeds first and foremost and that just rebuilding what I’ve left behind might very well get in the way of that, but it almost seems like I can’t really help but attract film stuff into my life somehow. Actually, within the first 30 minutes of my very first visit to Leeds I already – completely by chance (or fate. Probably the latter) – made an unexpected connection to the local film industry. And I hadn’t even been aware of its existence prior to that encounter.

Leeds is different than any of the places I’ve moved to before. Usually, when I’m in a new place I tend to feel insecure. It takes me a while to get grounded. I need to walk everywhere to slowly connect with my surroundings. I need to find the nearest bookstore and spend some hours in there reading and having coffee as somewhat of a ritual.

I usually go to the cinema a lot when I’m somewhere new, where I know I’m gonna live, partly to escape from how lost and lonely I am feeling every time. Contrary to popular belief travelling and moving around constantly is not all just fun and games for me. It’s something I sort of needed to do for a long time to repeatedly force myself out of my comfort zone (because even though I do have my struggles when moving – I also do adjust very quickly).

Leeds is different.

I feel at home. No effort. I don’t feel lonely or lost at all.

To the contrary I just very much enjoy my own solitary company, while curiously exploring corners, alleys, busroutes, museums and of course potential areas to move to.

People are adorably polite, even more than in any other part of England I’ve been to. I get a sense that this city… actually likes itself.

I know, I’m sure it’s got its haters like every place does, but… what matters is: They are not the people I attract. The ones I meet love this place and don’t see any reason to leave. And I am determined to join them.

Current moving status: On UK ground, acquiring funds to make the permanent move.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 1: LA to Leeds”

  1. Dennis W. Osland

    Dear Marei,
    I’m sorry that I didn’t meet your grandmother durning my visit. As I was reading Chapter 1, I had this vision of a one person play. Living room on stage, all furnished and you sitting at the desk, suddenly you rise and begin speaking your word. I know it has been done before. Can’t wait for the next chapter.
    Stay Strong and Sweet, Love, Dennis

    1. Thank you Dennis!
      I’m so glad you enjoy reading my rather unfiltered thoughts.
      And I’m also especially happy that my American friends still like me, despite my choice to leave the US behind for the moment. And as of a few minutes ago: Chapter two is ready, too!

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