UCLA + UM

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA, through the extension program.

I like being on campus. There’s grass and benches, buildings with names like “Rolfe Hall,” and hand-made posters urging you to join the Ballroom Dance Club and the Muslim Student Association.

It makes me nostalgic.

I went to the University of Michigan, which I picked because my dad said I should, and because it was big: I wanted to make sure college was nothing like high school; disappearing into a sea of 35,000 undergrads seemed like a good strategy.

The only downside was that it was in Michigan, which I knew to be a lame state because a) it wasn’t on the East Coast and b) it didn’t seem to be completely plumbed (my grandfather’s house on Lake Michigan had an indoor toilet, but he discouraged its use; why strain the sceptic system when there was a perfectly good outhouse out back?)

So I was surprised to discover, bit by bit, that I liked it there. I liked Ann Arbor, with its clapboard houses and old-fashioned downtown. I liked the plain beauty of the Midwest. And to be honest the East Coast kids were… well, a little snobby.

They hung out in packs, joined the same frats. They were so sure of themselves, so positive about where they were headed (right back to the Tristate area), so curiously incurious.

When I lived in New York, years later, I noticed the same thing. New York is so confident of its solar position in the universe — it’s just not that interested in what’s happening anywhere else.

Take this month’s Elle Decor — published NY, NY 10020 — which features up-and-coming designers. The editors breezily note, “The renaissance seems to be worldwide. We’re as likely to discover a special talent in Brooklyn as in Milan, in an upstate New York industrial studio as in a Paris atelier.” Good grief. That’s a New Yorker’s idea of “worldwide?” Brooklyn, Paris, and upstate?

But I digress.

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA.

And if you had told me, back when I was hurrying across UM’s diag on my way to class, that one day I’d be headed to class in Los Angeles — driving up Wilshire through rush hour traffic — I would have known you were wrong.

Known.

Which just goes to show: Once you move to Michigan, anything can happen.

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