Sometimes I take the freeway, but often I head west on Sunset Boulevard to travel through time, passing old neighborhoods with houses clinging to hillsides and bungalows swathed in Cecile Brunner roses, and then threading through the run-down decadence of Hollywood, with its prostitutes and by-the-hour motels, the fading hipness of the Sunset Strip and Beverly Hills, with its mansions and broad green lawns. Often, I don't see Los Angeles as it is—so much of it new, so much of it still trying to define itself—but as it was. I see the city of my childhood, the lingering echoes of my family and a history that's deep, complex and not always wonderful. It's a city beautiful, melancholy and triumphant, and it's my home.
Lisa See is the author of many books, including the novel Peony in Love and a family history, On Gold Mountain.