How many languages did you hear today?

Sometimes living in Los Angeles feels fantastic. Beauty – in many forms – pervades. You look around, and you smile. The sun shines, the scene looks great, and many languages fill the day.

I visited the Huntington Gardens, a beautiful oasis near California Institute of Technology, yesterday to catch a large photography exhibit documenting 150 years of Los Angeles history. Inevitably, I fell in love with the city again – and gained a new appreciation for how cars, film, oil, and immigration have created this global city of dreams and demons.  The show, “This Side of Paradise: Body and Landscape in LA Photographs”, starred evocative photographs by numerous great photographers and attracted a fine crowd.

While moving through the city or going to tourist sites, I often ask myself a simple question. “How many languages did you hear today?” It’s a way to nudge me to pay more attention to sounds, along with the sights, around me. It also reminds me that I’ve traveled quite some distant from Crawfordsville, Indiana where I went to college or even Indianapolis, Indiana where I mostly grew up. This simpe question is also a lively conversation starter in cosmopolitian areas.

Los Angeles is both a great American city and an international magnet for artists, seekers, immigrants, and students. Yesterday I heard Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, German, Hebrew – and lots of English.  Many other languages were also spoken, but I didn’t have the pleasure of hearing them.  Art, photography,  gardens, and culture brought all these people to share a common experience in multiple tongues.

“As one went to Europe to see the living past, so one must visit Southern California to see the future,” wrote Alison Lurie, an American novelist.  Her words still ring true. And living here provides still more possibilities!

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