L.A. Affairs: I was new to Los Angeles. Was driving 70 miles for love worth it?


I begrudgingly met my husband. I had been in L.A. for a short time and was keeping busy with the California lifestyle I had always dreamed of. With my doctorate in audiology, I had my first real job in the profession I had studied for many years. I also had my own apartment, complete with a complex pool surrounded by palm trees. I even bought a convertible that I could cruise top down year-round.

Having come from Canada, where winter is the most prominent season, being in Southern California felt more like a vacation than real life.

My weekdays were about work, so I decided to settle close to my office in Santa Clarita. I had the dream commute. I was two songs on the radio from my doorstep to the office. Also, Santa Clarita provided the perfect springboard for exploring SoCal on weekends. It was a quick jaunt to the beach on the 126. Or I could go north to the wine country or over to the desert or mountains depending on my mood or the weather.

I was single and excited to take advantage of all California had to offer. I wasn’t looking for love or a boyfriend. I loved dating and was excited about trying it in SoCal.

My brother, who previously lived in Huntington Beach, kept bugging me about going south to hang out with a houseful of his friends — in Orange County!

Driving two hours south through L.A., traffic pending, to visit a rowdy house of people I didn’t know did not sound desirable, especially when I had so much of California to explore.

Therefore, the “open invitation” went unanswered.

That is, until my brother came to visit me. Upon his insistence and promise to drive, we went south to the Fountain Valley House. We arrived late on a Friday night and pulled up in front of a much larger house than I had expected. The house, as I would come to learn, had an ever-changing cast of characters as the jobs or relationships of its occupants changed. It was common to have guests or semi-permanent company parked on the couch.

Even the large master closet had no vacancy. It had been repurposed as a bedroom for one of the more permanent roommates.

Peak season was the winter. A lot of the actual roommates had friends or soon-to-be roommates from northern states — guests who wouldn’t leave once they came to visit — looking to escape those snowy climates.

I am not (or was not?) one to believe in love at first sight but I remember the large wood panel door swinging open that first night and seeing Kirk for the first time. I love meeting new people but had never had a connection like the one I have with him before. He was attentive, honest and intellectual. He had previously lived in the house and moved out to live with a girlfriend in her apartment. After they broke up, he moved back into this crazy house.

He was in the kitchen, casually leaning back on the kitchen island wearing a striped zip-up hoodie that he still wears to this day.

For some reason, time stood still. I did not know that evening what we would grow to become. I just knew it was different from anything I’d experienced. We clicked. Although he was immediately interested in me, he knew where I lived and didn’t think a relationship with me would go anywhere.

But I knew better.

After all, we had plenty in common. My brother and Kirk are pilots and ride motorcycles, so I was familiar with his hobbies and interests. He also loved cars, and I had just gotten my convertible. Our first real date was asking him to go for a drive and show me around. From that moment on, he became my new L.A. tour guide.

The two-hour drive I didn’t want to make became the drive the two of us did willingly, almost every weekend for five years. It was 70 miles one way, and traffic could be a beast. If I went south, the traffic was even worse, and I would leave Sunday night, which cut into our time together. The goodbyes were the worst, and we’d start feeling sad on Sunday afternoons. Although we technically lived in Greater L.A., it was next to impossible to get together on a weeknight and be back to work on time the next day.

If we felt like being social, I headed south. The Fountain Valley House was like a frat house.

There was always someone willing to go out or a party already planned on the premises. Mattress rides down the large entrance staircase were common as was fire twirling, juggling and unicycle riding.

The house was a literal circus at times as many of the regular household members were competitive unicyclers. If solitude was what we needed and we craved a relaxing weekend, we would head north to Santa Clarita.

We would hike in the surrounding hills, drink wine and cook quiet meals together. We would order Thai food to be delivered to the community hot tub. (We were the only ones who used it.) Instead of a hangover brunch at the Sugar Shack Cafe in Huntington Beach, we would make pancakes together and pack a picnic for a day of bocce ball in the local park.

No matter where we ended up, the weekends were blissful. “But is this real life?” I wondered as I did all my laundry, shopping and cleaning during the week and absolutely nothing productive on the weekends.

With 70 miles between us, Kirk wanted to have daily phone calls to keep in touch, but as someone who despises talking on the phone, this was a true test of our relationship.

Thankfully we wanted to experience life together more than we wanted unending, magical, surreal weekends. We got engaged and then married. Best of all, my husband moved north, and although we still love to explore L.A., we can now share a quiet meal together — any day of the week.

The author is a writer and audiologist from Winnipeg, Canada. She lives in Santa Clarita and still tries not to do laundry on weekends. She can be reached at hbriyeo@gmail.com.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.


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