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He seduced me with the quirks and hidden charms of my hometown

He seduced me with the quirks and hidden charms of my hometown
I was an L.A. native who had fled the city after high school. (Shenho Hshieh / For The Times)

I was running late. Twenty minutes late, to be exact. I frantically texted my date that I would be there and, a few minutes later, that I was parking.

For our first date, I had suggested Tito’s Tacos, an unassuming taco stand dating to the 1950s that served up hard-shell tacos with grated cheddar and iceberg lettuce. A Westside landmark, it had been a Saturday lunchtime staple in my family for decades. Although I was excited to be reuniting with Tito, I was feeling less certain about my date.

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I had recently moved home to L.A. after two years of extremely unsuccessful dating in Boston. Upon moving to Boston, I had dreams of meeting my one true love in some terribly romantic and New England-y way — riding the subway, bumping into each other in the library, getting caught in a snow storm. Heck, I would have even settled for meeting at a Dunkin’ Donuts.

But alas, I had no such luck. Date after failed date had left me feeling disheartened and alone in a city that I had loved but never really felt a part of. And so, after I finished grad school, I packed up my things and moved back to a city that I never much liked but was suddenly longing for — home, L.A.

Several months later, I found myself driving to Tito’s for what would be my 23rd first date over the course of almost three years — but who’s counting? Needless to say, I was not feeling terribly optimistic. However, once there, I tried to shake the cynicism off myself while I scanned the room for my date, Pete.

And then, I saw him. We moved toward each other, exchanging handshakes and bashful hellos. He was cuter than I had expected — with green eyes, a boyish frame and a warm, down-to-earth demeanor. I liked him right away.

We made our way to the back patio as a warm, jittery feeling spread through my chest and a smile curled at my lips. He was a writer from Philly who had moved to L.A. after college to pursue his dream of working in Hollywood.

I told him I was an L.A. native who had fled the city after high school — first for college in Oregon and then grad school in Boston.

Conversation flowed easily as we moved from one first-date topic to the next. I confided in him that although I was happy to be back near family, I never much cared for Los Angeles. I had gone to school in Beverly Hills and found the culture and people there to be shallow, materialistic and inauthentic.

Pete came to L.A.’s defense, arguing that, while that side of L.A. certainly exists, the city has so much more to offer outside the West L.A. bubble I had grown up in.

Pete began to talk excitedly about art-house movie theaters, incredible taco trucks, movie fanatics and all the other things about the city that he loved — things sometimes lying in the cracks and crevices of this sprawling metropolis.

He then shyly put forth that he could show me some of his favorite spots sometime. Thrilled that he had alluded to a second date, I took him up on his offer.

For one of our early dates, Pete had me meet him at the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It’s in a tiny building wedged between two much larger ones, and I must have driven by it a hundred times without ever knowing it was there.

Once inside, I made my way through room after room of the most bizarre and whimsical exhibits I had ever encountered. Such exhibits included portraits of the first dogs in space, soundless videos of how to play cat’s cradle and tiny replicas of Los Angeles mobile home disasters.

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“This place is amazing,” I professed from the rooftop patio of the building. “And I never knew this was here.”

On another early date, Pete took me to a Halloween night screening of “The Tingler,” a campy old horror film playing at the historic Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue.

On our way there, Pete excitedly said that this was one of the things that made L.A. so special — these old theaters scattered throughout the city that played a medley of old, new and frequently strange movies for hard-core film nerds who dressed up in costume to see pictures they had seen so many times before that they could recite each line as it played.

“No other city has this,” Pete said.

This is how it went on for the first few months of our courtship. We crisscrossed Los Angeles showing each other our favorite ramen places, taco trucks, lookout points, etc. As our dates continued, I found myself falling for this sweet, smart boy from Philadelphia. And not only that, I was falling for L.A. too.

Don’t get me wrong, L.A. and I still go through our rough patches. I still get frustrated with the traffic, the lack of seasons and the high rents. But, after 30 years, I have finally started to appreciate all the things that L.A. has to offer. After 30 years, L.A. and I are solid.

And Pete? Five years later, we’re going strong too.

The author is a social worker at UCLA.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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