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While I've never been keen on casual sex, an honest accounting reveals that I am apparently in the habit of making out at scenic spots. From a party at a historic landmark to a Sunset Boulevard bridge that crosses Echo Park, to the rooftop of Dennis Hopper's former Venice compound, I now have a postcard memory of Los Angeles that is both historic and sensual.
In my romantic life, I have been in love a few times, been engaged and been forced to reckon with my former fiancé's early death. As a result, I now conceive of dating the way others might undertake world travel: Every man I go on a date with is a unique country of his own. I may not fathom all of his customs or want to spend my entire life immersed in his strangeness, but I enjoy our time together because of the experience. The upshot? Those dates that end with kisses do so in a spectacular fashion.
Los Angeles, with its varied topography and endless cache of iconic structures, is an excellent place to kiss and be kissed.
I began to notice this odd phenomenon two years ago when visiting a couple who live in a house in Mount Washington. The house used to be a musician's retreat, and I believe that decades of recitals have suffused the custom brick work and mysterious wandering trails with sensuality. Walking on the grounds somehow releases pleasurable feelings.
Whenever I go to a party at this house, I invariably find myself pressed up against a trellis or concrete alcove, caught up in the grip of a spontaneous make-out session with someone. The house is powerful this way. Once, a remarkably handsome friend pitched the idea of kissing there. I was slightly — and briefly — taken aback. "But we're in each other's social circle," I reminded him. "Surely it would be awkward if it doesn't go well?" He considered this for a moment, and then replied, "Well, we could just be adults about it."
We made out for a few minutes on a wall and have happily been platonic friends ever since.
Of course, scenic make-outs sometimes lead to scenic breakups. In May, I was cut loose under the neon signage of the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, which, though it made for a visually spectacular memory, still kind of bums me out whenever I drive past the landmark. Another long-term relationship breakup took place just across from the Hammer Museum in Westwood, an area, which, with its mixture of one-story brick adobe-style buildings and late-stage capitalist Power Towers, feels like a jumbled-up power-point presentation from a witless history professor. The worst and perhaps saddest of these breakups occurred under the crossing of two major freeways — the 10 and the 405 — as if to symbolically (and, let's face it, irritatingly) reinforce how our lives were moving in separate directions.
I sometimes wonder if all of these momentary but passionate embraces are as much about the men as they are about the city itself. Would I have made out with a strapping Fijian if we hadn't been overtaken by the shimmering night carpet of Venice as seen from a rooftop? Would I have been undone by the beauty of another man's eyes if he hadn't been standing in front of a repurposed Lincoln Heights Victorian?
To look at it from another perspective, would my dates want to spontaneously make out with me if I was standing in a cornfield in Nebraska? I have a healthy self-esteem about my appearance, but come on now: It's virtually impossible not to be kissed in Los Angeles if you're standing anywhere near something Julius Shulman photographed.
As far as serious dating goes, I'm still holding out for love. Yet in the frequently confusing, face-slapping reality that comes from being alive, I think we all need to lighten up about romance. Some of us find it right away, others wander howling into infinite lonely corridors, and the vast majority of us are apparently caught up in a waxing and waning cycle of joy and tragedy. Whatever your particular romantic rhythm, be advised: In this city, there are many wonderful men to date and so many gorgeous places to make out with them.
Julia Ingalls is an essayist who lives in Culver City.