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On Suburbs. Dune Messiah. Stand Up Solutions.

Luna // 14 Months // On Suburbs

I never thought I'd be the kind of person who'd consider leaving the city for the suburbs.

I love the energy of LA, but something shifts when you become a parent. Our home is beginning to feel cramped, stretched to its limits by Luna's constant movement and exploration. As she wanders from room to room and toy to toy, Kristine and I find ourselves grappling with a question that has taken on new urgency: Where do we see ourselves putting down longterm roots?

Before Luna, location didn't matter much to me. Living in South Central meant we weren't within close proximity of much, but a thirty-minute trip across town felt effortless. Now, even a ten-minute drive requires careful preparation and planning. I find myself increasingly aware of the time spent in transit, time spent getting to neighborhoods instead of being in them, time spent going to a restaurant and driving right back home. All of this time spent driving back and forth, when instead, if I lived elsewhere, I could feel situated.

I want Luna to grow up with the freedom to explore her surroundings, to walk to a nearby park or a friend's house, to feel a deep connection to the places around her. I want her to experience the richness of neighborhood life, the serendipitous encounters and impromptu playdates that come from being part of a tight-knit community. I've always wished I lived in a walkable neighborhood, with a coffee shop nearby to pop into whenever I want. Now, it feels more important than ever.

This is the time in most people's lives where they move to the suburbs, and I have to admit, I see the appeal. It's not only about school districts and square footage, it's about the quality of connections, the depth of community ties, the sense of belonging.

In Florida and Northern California, I built many of my friendships by sitting at coffee shops and striking up conversations with strangers. In LA, over the course of four years, this has never happened once.

Thinking about it, striking up a conversation with a stranger at a coffee shop in LA feels odd. Everyone is so focused on their own pursuits, busy with their own conversations and projects. There is little time for idle chatter. The frenetic energy of the city, the constant hustle and bustle, seems to discourage the kind of casual, unhurried interactions that are so essential to building a sense of community.

An appeal of suburbs is that the slower pace more readily translates to chance encounters and impromptu interactions. They’re woven into the fabric of daily life because strangers are no longer strangers, they’re neighbors.

This weekend we drove out to Whittier, a suburb on the east side of Los Angeles. As we explored, I was struck by how much easier it felt to connect with people in a city like this compared to those in the heart of LA. In Whittier, I suspect that problem of starting conversations would evaporate. Spending a few days at a local coffee shop chatting with regulars would likely yield an entirely new social circle.

Yet as appealing as that sounds, Kristine and I aren't sure we're ready to leave the heart of LA just yet. Perhaps instead, we can carve out pockets of intimacy and belonging in a more central area. Maybe it's about being the ones to create those spaces, forging our own little village amidst the sprawl of the city.

So uh…do you happen to be reading this, AND live in Los Angeles, AND have small children? If so, please write back! Let’s hang ☻

What I Read

Dune Messiah is a weirdly quiet sequel to Dune, chronicling Paul Atreides' journey to becoming emperor.

At its core, the book is about the limits of knowledge and the burdens of leadership. As ruler of a galaxy, Paul finds himself ensnared in a web of political machinations and conspiracies, with the Bene Gesserit, Spacing Guild, Tleilaxu, and others vying to shape the future to their own ends. Despite his godlike status, he’s unable to escape the same petty power struggles that have echoed through history.

Paul's visions of the future are fragmented and ever-shifting, a burden as much as a gift. The weight of foreknowledge isolates him, taking him out of the present moment and into the future. In one point he laments:

I've had a bellyful of the god and priest business! You think I don't see my own mythos? Consult your data once more, Hayt. I've insinuated my rites into the most elementary human acts. The people eat in the name of Muad'dib! They make love in my name, are born in my name — cross the street in my name. A roof beam cannot be raised in the lowliest hovel of far Gangishree without invoking the blessing of Muad'dib!

Is it truly possible for a single individual, no matter how well-intentioned, to bend the path of history and impose their will without unleashing suffering? Is it truly possible to rise above plots to destroy you and take your place? Is it possible to no longer be king?

This book offers no tidy resolutions, but rather a poignant portrait of someone grappling with their own myth and the currents of destiny.

What I Watched

Stand Up Solutions, Conner O'Malley’s new special (available for free on YouTube), is performed with the aura of a Middle America corporate motivational speaker.

O’Malley constantly uses long-winded hyper-capitalist terms to describe new technological innovations, like one that ‘uses the power of 5G’ to ‘pull data directly from the audience’ to create new ‘data sets of comedy’.

He introduces an AI robot named KENN (Kinetic Emotional Neural Network) to do standup tailored to a single audience members, talks about how amazing his children’s algorithms will be because of how much data corporations will be able to track them by since birth, and pridefully boasts on the success McDonald’s will have once robots fully automize every franchise in the nation.

The jokes land because they are only a shade removed from reality. Everything that he describes carries an undercurrent of inevitability, a sense that this is simply the logical endpoint of the path we are already a good ways down. He's also just really funny. Worth watching!

That’s all for now.

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