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How I got here

by Brooke Berman

I moved to Los Angeles because of a vision. I had been living in New York, making a fairly decent life in the theater. Which means, I was doing well but not earning enough money to live on. I had four jobs at any given time and a number of playwriting commissions or workshops that paid well under a living wage. And I was happy. But I was tired. After the sale of a script, I found myself in LA, staying with a friend in Beverly Hills, dating my ex-boyfriend and “taking meetings”. I hadn’t planned to move here. But there was this one night I drove to Real Food Daily from a friend’s house in Mount Washington watching the sun set in front of me, barefoot, Joni Mitchell on the car stereo, and I had a really good feeling. I knew that if I moved here, my soul would open.

I can’t explain exactly what I imagined this opening would look like. Maybe some more of that barefoot bougainvillea sunset Joni Mitchell yumminess. I mean, who has a vision on the 101? But whatever it was, it was intoxicating. It looked like a canyon, and it smelled like night-blooming jasmine.

I got back to New York a few days later wondering, what was that? I mean, who has a vision on the 101? Really? I went straight from the airport to Balthazar, bought a coffee and told myself that LA was not real, a mirage. I’d never leave New York.

A few months later, I saw a psychic who said, “Don’t be afraid. California is a better place for you.” And then, she listed the names of the A list movie stars I’d work with. A few months after that, I decided to test the waters. I held onto my New York apartment, setting up a “swap” instead of subletting or letting it go entirely. A director in West Hollywood came to live in my place on Mott Street while I moved into his, off Sunset, for 2 months. I arrived in September of 2006, ready for some serious soul-opening.

And LA received me thusly. I had a bunch of friends here and easily fell into the rhythms of a West Coast life. I got a job rewriting someone’s script – just the female characters — and then another. The ex and I kept doing our thing, even though I refused to commit to him and he refused to stay sober long enough to work out why. I set up a yoga practice, wrote a play, and went about exploring. Walking through the Rose Bowl Flea Market one Sunday, my friend Monica said, “What if you just stayed?”

What if? I liked it here. I liked spending Thanksgiving in open-toe sandals. I liked how many of my friends from the New York theater – as well as my childhood in Chicago – had already moved here, providing a built in community. I liked the weather and the food and the hiking and the farmer’s market and the knowledge that even though I couldn’t see the ocean, it was really fucking close. Writing was the one thing that mattered though. I would follow the work.

I went back to New York on the scheduled date to pick up the pieces, shoot a movie, take a short-term freelance job at House and Garden, and spend the holidays with my New York friends. And I stayed another three years.

I had plays to produce, freelance jobs to write, men to kiss. It was only after getting priced out of my New York apartment, giving up on love and then finding it, losing my mom to diabetes and meeting my husband, that I could face relocation.

My husband and I moved here together the summer of 2009, driving across the country in a 1989 Lexus that had seen better days and broke down halfway lest we forget it.

This time, I didn’t credit any of transformational vision. No, no! I was here for practical reasons, for my career. But, as an actor friend reminded me in Runyon when I was still apartment-swapping, “Los Angeles was once sacred land. Don’t come to this city expecting to get what you want. Instead, ask to be transformed.”  He said, “Be good to her, and she’ll be good to you.” And so it has gone.

Everything has changed for me here. I’ve authored a book (, gotten married and had a kid, made a genuine home after writing and publishing a memoir that chronicles transience, and committed to a good man after a whole lot of adventures with bad ones. In other words, I’ve built a life. And here I am, contemplating a move back East.

Why would I possibly do that? I promise to tell you. As it happens. If it happens. Soon.

Brooke Berman

About Brooke Berman

Brooke Berman is a playwright, screenwriter and the author of No Place Like Home: A Memoir in 39 Apartments. She recently wrote and directed the short film "Uggs For Gaza." Plays include: Smashing, Hunting and Gathering, Out of the Water, The Jesus Year, Sam and Lucy and others. More information:

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