Different Worlds- Transcontinental Friendships


Friends, … most of us have a lot of virtual ones on Facebook, whether or not we know them in person. More meaningful is to have friends in real life. During the years I lived in West LA, I got to know many people through work, common film or artistic projects, and activities, and mostly through the local art scene.

Throughout my residency in Europe, we stay in touch primarily via Facebook/messenger; it’s an easy way to keep in touch and keep track of one’s whereabouts – one of the few positive aspects we can assign to Facebook. Or occasionally, an elaborated email or Skype call if we have each other more to tell.

It makes the fact that I miss my LA friends a lot a bit easier – being away from the place that once was my most valuable community, friends you could count upon … i.e. they gave you rides to events around town, or who would lend you a bike for a year when you ended up without a car …

Hence, during all those years, they became somewhat my “surrogate” family, since I did not have much close family in Belgium …

So when the occasion occurs, that I can visit Los Angeles, invited by friends to housesit and take care for their lovely dogs while they’re away on vacation, I jump on the wagon! It offers me the opportunity to spend a great time near the beach in Santa Monica, and to reconnect and catch up with friends “in person”.

Lucky me thus last summer. In between my responsibilities I hung out on the beach and went for a daily swim in the ocean – always so rejuvenating – and now and then a friend joined me and we played the waves together, so much fun!

My friend Donna & me hanging out on Santa Monica Beach © Kaat Cleenewerck

Aside from the ocean pleasures , there were also many that were cultural. There were some very enjoyable performances at the summer concert series (from musicals to trendy pop music) at the Burton Chase Park in the Marina. Attendees bringing picnics, lingering on blankets on the lawn, contributed to a relaxed atmosphere. The same can be said of the popular Twilight Concert Series on the Santa Monica Pier. Though now programmed later in the season and in a different formula, still the ultimate spot to hang out and run into locals. An very importantly, there is always a most fantastic sunset, to dream away even more!

Beautiful sunset at the Marina during the summer concert series © Kaat Cleenewerck

My favorite concert was the one of “Lady Zep”, a very energetic, all female tribute to Led Zeppelin, covering their major songs, at the Fiesta la Bellona in Culver city.

Very entertaining was the opening night of the “Other Art Fair” at the Barker Hangar (near the Santa Monica Airport), for art lovers and artists, dressed in a wide spectrum of stylish outfits appropriate for the occasion (or not). Next to the artwork, an absolute delight to observe ! Afterwards, my friend Suzanne and I – each riding enthusiastilyc on an electric step & bike, it provoked amusing remarks by a group of youngsters, and took a detour to a well-known typical local pub. where, while having some after-drink(s), we took part in an amusing quiz (and I must admit, Suzanne knew most of the answers!)

Once back on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I always have to deal with a culture shock, on different levels.

Aside from the unpredictable (primarily gray) weather, there is a totally different vibe, other ways of how people stand in life … makes me feel somewhat alienated …

“Friend” here (French: ami, Dutch: vriend) has a slightly different – linguistic – meaning too. I (can) have some “acquaintances”, people I meet regularly at events, and luckily, Brussels has a vibrant cultural scene.

On the other hand, a “friend” (vriend) here means someone I have a closer relationship with. My local friends in Belgium, since they live in other cities and have a rather full professional and personal calendar, I don’t see them very often. Even to the point we actually have to make an appointment in order to see and meet each other. It is so not the same as just spontaneously hanging out with friends, as is the case on the LA Westside. That’s when I miss my precious LA friends the most.

So, if one of them happens to visit a European city not to far from Brussels, I make efforts to go see them, although my travel budget is very tight. Whether it is a few days in romantic Paris, or in beautiful Tuscany (Italy) – offering an ideal scenery for meet-ups – it is always worth the money spent!

Last week I flew lost cost to Pisa, to meet with my friend Susan at the Locanda San Ginese, a most charming and highly recommended B&B near Lucca (also dogs are welcome)! Our fabulous hostess Alida, and above all friend, pampered us and took us on relaxing walks in the splendid Tuscan countryside, and small sightseeing tours in the area.

So, friends, we go with the flow and we catch each other … on social media, or better, on eitherside of the Atlantic! Always welcome in Brussels – may not be as sexy as Paris or Lucca, the view of the Grand Place is unbeatable! 

Note: on Labor Day weekend the Broad Humor Film Festival took place. Since I was a founding member and in town, I also participated and helped out. But this is content for a next column an sich…

About Kaat Cleenewerck 10 Articles
After a 12 years "life adventure" in Los Angeles where Kaat Cleenewerck worked in independent film and as a journalist, she relocated a couple of years ago to her native country, Belgium. Yet, the ties with Los Angeles are still very strong, inviting, and most of all, inspiring.

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