This might be the Angry Texan in me speaking, but I’ve begun to develop an odd distrust for people who like Los Angeles too much. And yes, liking Los Angeles is liking it too much.
It’s not that Angelenos are bad people (for the most part, Angelenos are surprisingly civil, if not gracious) – it’s that I don’t think L.A. enthusiasts have that keen of a grasp on reality. I’m speaking, of course, of those who feel the need to constantly remind everyone else how great it is to live in the City of Angels, with its perfect weather, beaches, glamour, nightlife… etc. There are a fair bit of them, and they’re usually either from out of town, or locals who have never actually stepped foot anywhere else. There seems to be a mental disconnect – I’m pretty sure they live somewhere other than where they think they live. Hence, my distrust for them isn’t so much that which one feels towards a malevolent, masked stranger in an alleyway, but rather the distrust one feels for the crazy, spittle-mouthed hobo on the street corner.
Now, I lived in Los Angeles for six developmentally crucial years of my life, so I can’t hate the city too much. But even then, with all of its ups and downs, I have not regretted for a second moving away. Even with all the pain and suffering Texas has to offer – the sweaty-crotch summers, the idea that I could be legally shot and killed for trespassing, the existence of Waco – I still think to myself as I gulp down my flavor-deficient Lone Star Lager, “Well, it could be worse. I could be in Los Angeles.”
So, L.A. Enthusiasts, either I’m missing something or you’re missing something, but apparently we weren’t living in the same reality. So allow me to present to you, just to get us on the same page of where we both once lived, the Quack’s Guide to the Los Angeles Pathos…
1A. Elements of psyche: The Beach
This is a beach. It is possibly the most important feature of the L.A. geographical psyche, and for good reason: beaches are beautiful and they represent the freedom of the human spirit (never mind that they’re the most inhibiting geographical landform on earth). They provide some of the most popular recreational activities for Southern Californians, including surfing, swimming, and tanning. “L.A.” is basically synonymous with “Beach Culture.”
But actually, it’s not where you live. You may think you live on the beach, but have you ever looked at a map of Los Angeles? It touches the water in precisely three places, and one of them is a huge ugly harbor. All those sandy wonderlands that come to mind when you think about Los Angeles? Those are the distinctly different cities of Santa Monica, Malibu, etc. In fact, half of LA is separated from the water by a mountain range. You have to drive over something called a “pass” just to get close.
And even then, think about your Los Angeles city beaches for a minute. On any nice day, if you don’t want to spend ten dollars or so to park, you have to drive for about thirty minutes in circles trying to find some sort of street parking or a cheap meter to feed. And then when you actually do get to the beach, it’s too crowded to even play beach football let alone unleash the freedom of the human spirit. If you combine the crowds with the parking situation and the stiflingly lovely smell of kelp and sunscreen, it could be considered the least liberating place in the city.
Anyway, have fun bringing your surf board to Venice Beach. I’ll be waiting in Santa Cruz.
1B. Elements of psyche: Hollywood
Everyone knows that Hollywood and Los Angeles are basically synonymous (Hollywood, in the proper sense, is a neighborhood of Los Angeles). In fact, more people would probably know where you’re from if you told them “Hollywood” than if you told them “Los Angeles.” The film industry has defined the city for nearly a century.
Let me first talk about Hollywood, the neighborhood, and then I’ll talk about Hollywood, the idea. Hollywood is a crappy neighborhood full of thieves and robbers that only maintains an inkling of glamour by its vague and misleading connection to the film industry. It’s kept alive by tourists who aren’t actually aware that films aren’t made there anymore, and they are duped into patronizing its seedy underbelly. Hollywood is the Vegas Strip minus the family fun and the gambling addicts… and the light shows… and the pretty buildings… and the cheap hotels… and the happiness. I’ll give Hollywood credit for one thing: it has a lot of venues that feature and support up-and-coming young musicians and comedians.
As for Hollywood, the idea, there’s so much I could say that it could really fill a whole entry by itself. But let me start with this: Hollywood is where dreams go to die. It drinks the life-blood of aspiring actors, directors, and screenwriters who are led to believe that the only place you can succeed in the film industry is the City of Angles. In truth, Los Angeles is so inundated with people seeking the Silver Screen that, even though it’s where most of the jobs are, the likelihood of breaking through into the upper echelon of the Los Angeles screen world is so slim by mere size of competition that you might as well be better off filming videos of yourself naked in sepia and sending them to art-film festivals.
I have friends and family that have been trying to make it in the cut-throat, heartless Los Angeles film scene, and it breaks my heart to see them experiencing such ups and downs as if they’re dating a volatile, bipolar but gorgeous millionaire who cheats on them weekly. It’s like psychological domestic abuse, but instead of a person, it’s an industry and culture.
It doesn’t have to be that way, folks. States like New Mexico are just begging to use you to develop their film industry, and they’ll throw money at you to do it.
None of this would bother me, however, if it weren’t for two things: 1) only 5% of what Hollywood puts out is original or has artistic value (even oscar-winning movies are the same old formula masquerading as artistic-value), and 2) three quarters of everyone in Hollywood pursuing acting and film-making is in it for the glitz and glamour. So not only do I get to watch my friends and family struggle to succeed in a deplorably soulless industry, I get to watch them, as hard-working film-enthusiasts who love the art of acting and writing, struggle against people who just want to be on the cover of a tabloid.
Hollywood has turned Los Angeles into a culture concerned exclusively with status and appearance. Bling: it’s not just for rappers.
You love Los Angeles because it’s a diverse city with many different cultures. There are rich white people. There are poor white people. There are Mexicans. There are Persians. Asians, blacks, Russians – there isn’t a single culture you can’t find within the Los Angeles city limits.
Except for one thing: every race has its own neighborhood. Sure, you love the fact that you can get Ethiopian food, but think about all those times you went to Little Ethiopia – you didn’t go as a local. You went as a tourist. It was your same city, but you were embarking on a foreign experience to a land with which you were unfamiliar.
Think about Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles – that delicious haven of soul food in Mid City? I loved getting coronaries there like anybody else, but I didn’t actually live there, and whenever I went, it was a quick trip to get fat and a quick departure. No, I lived in an island of Persian Jews on the West Side. Having enclosed ethnic neighborhoods like Compton, Korea Town, China Town, etc. – that isn’t diversity, that’s segregation.
And thus is the tragedy of white-flight and gentrification: nobody actually wants to live in a diverse community. They just want access to one.
Okay, okay, I know you know Los Angeles has bad traffic. I don’t need to remind you.
But really, it’s bad. You know it’s bad when you’re watching a televised high-speed car chase at 1:00am and the culprit runs into a traffic jam. You know it’s bad when you can see downtown from your building, but you’ll need to leave now to make it there in time for a concert in two hours. You know it’s bad when you think to yourself, “Man, I need to go to the grocery store. Oh wait, it’s 4:00pm. I can’t turn out of my street now. I guess I have to wait until 8:00.”
When the idea of being stuck in traffic prevents you from completing simple errands like grocery shopping, I don’t care how awesome your city is otherwise, it’s time to move.
I’ve gotten spoiled since moving to Austin. The Benevolent God of Urban Planning has bestowed upon us wonderful things called “left turn signals,” a treasure thought to be mythical in the City of Angels, where a “protected left” is when the car turning left behind you protects you from getting the ticket for running a red light. Oh yes, we do have bad traffic in Austin. But when the traffic is bad, I think to myself, “Oh no! It will take me five, maybe ten more minutes to get downtown than it usually does!” …as opposed to, “Oh no! It will take me one, maybe two more hours to get downtown than it usually does!”
In my last year in Los Angeles, I commuted almost every day to my workplace a whole 2.5 miles away. It would take me an hour. Think about that. That’s averaging a slow walking pace. Think about what the entire commuting city could do for that hour instead of commuting. That’s a lot of youtube cat-videos not watched. I could’ve caught up on my Louis CK, but no – I, with the rest of the city, was sitting in a car.
I’m not exaggerating. Los Angeles traffic eroded my will to live.
3b. Needing a car to do anything
And yet, life without a car is just as miserable as life in traffic! It’s a cruel no-win situation! Since the city is so sprawling, everything is a driving distance away! And it’s not like public transportation is any help; the busses in Los Angeles move slower than public works projects, and the metro rail is about as useful as voting for a third party candidate in a general election.
So not only does driving suck, but it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a choice we make when we live in Los Angeles – and frankly, it’s lunacy. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we choose to live somewhere that forces us to experience so much daily pain? It’s as if prospective residents reason with themselves: “Well, I’ll have to stick my hand in a blender daily, but, you know, it is pretty close to a beach, so let’s do it!”
4. Cost of living
I’ll grant you one thing: Los Angeles would be an incredible place to live if you were a multi-millionaire. You could live up in the hills with an awesome view of the city, you could spend your money at overpriced local markets and trendy eateries, you could throw out wads of cash for parking without having to take a mortgage out on your home…
…but the chances are, you’re not a multi-millionaire, in which case, you’ll either be living in a crappy neighborhood or paying too much for sub-standard living conditions in a good neighborhood. When I lived in Westwood, my rent for a single bedroom apartment was 1,600 dollars per month, and that wasn’t out of the ordinary. When I moved to West LA, my rent was a comfortable 1,450 for a two bedroom place, but it had no air conditioning or dishwasher, poor security, and a mysterious 100/mo electric bill. By contrast, my apartment in Austin is a two bedroom place for 599/mo. Of course, I also wake up to mariachi every morning.
In any case, searching for an apartment is like searching for a woman – all the good ones are taken (don’t take me seriously, ladies). And while you might find a couple you like, they’ll all have at least one glaring flaw that will eat away at your happiness for the duration of your required year-long contract existing together. Either that, or they’ll be so expensive you’ll work your way into the poorhouse trying to pay for your right to keep her.
5. The illusion of progressive thinking
I’ve noticed L.A. Enthusiasts love boasting about its progressive ideals and forward thinking. It would make sense – Los Angeles is a huge city whose metropolitan area is nearly half the population of a notoriously liberal, cutting-edge state. Beach hippies will talk about living side by side in a humanitarian, free-thinking society, expounding love-thy-neighbor philosophies and ways of life. Artists are always searching for new ideas and mediums, and for the most part, the city supports artistic expression and the circulation of these ideas. People form rights protests on regular basis. These are all things I like.
But Los Angeles is not a progressive city. If the racial segregation wasn’t enough to make you aware of this, maybe these two maps will:
Not to mention – wouldn’t a forward-thinking society be more active in implementing a public transportation system that is widespread and usable? Come on, LA, get your act together.
Los Angeles has a ton of nightlife, but it’s all hindered by one fundamental principle of the city already discussed in this post: you need to drive everywhere. There is no cohesive bar district. There are neighborhoods with bars placed throughout them, and these neighborhoods can be miles and miles apart, which means if you ever want to experience “The Nightlife of LA,” you’ll have to spend most of the night in your car. This means you also have to either have a Designated Driver who will loathe you for dragging them along, or you have to stay sober yourself. Either way, it’s gonna blow.
But let’s pretend you don’t plan on bar hopping. Let’s say you spend your entire night in just one neighborhood or one bar. You still have to abide by the Los Angeles Bar Culture dress code – which is to say jeans, dress shoes, and an untucked button-down shirt with rolled sleeves. You also have to be drinking an IPA.
Believe me, when I moved to Austin, I was shocked – shocked – that people went to bars wearing shorts and t-shirts. It was so not classy, so not self-aware, so… refreshing.
And while we’re discussing the classiness of Los Angeles Bar Culture, allow me to briefly discuss the magical wonder that is the Los Angeles Burger Scene. Yes, Los Angeles has long been trying to establish the Gourmet Burger as its regional dish, and believe me, some of those burgers are mighty, mighty delicious. But when I go out at night and get a gourmet burger, sweet potato fries, and a beer, and I end up paying over thirty dollars, I can’t help but think to myself how I could’ve gotten ten In ‘n Out hamburgers, a 40oz of Malt Liquor, and a bag full of Carl’s Jr. fries for the same price.
I’ve said enough about being in a car, but there is one thing I haven’t said:
2 Hour Parking
Mon-Sat 8am – 6pm
Permit 14D Exempt
Thurs 9am – 11am
Permit 14D Required
Daily 6pm – 12am
15 min Loading/Unloading only
Sunday 8am – 12pm
Permit 14D Exempt
Knowing whether you can park somewhere is like organizing a venn diagram of 7 different parameters.
Now yes, I’m being cruel and unforgiving. Please, L.A. Enthusiasts, don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of reasons to like Los Angeles. They just don’t seem to be concurrent with my biased version of your reality. So please, allow me to expand your enjoyment of your city by discussing things that I find are actually likable –
1. Access to geographical diversity
Did you know not only are you right next to the ocean, but you’re right next to three mountain ranges and two deserts? Los Angeles is in the middle of perhaps the most diversely fascinating geographical region in the country!
Sometimes I feel like people go to Coachella not realizing it’s in the middle of one of the most absurdly fascinating regions in the state.
Oh wait, you already know about this.
You already know about this one too.
Now, I have to defend Los Angeles from the misled haters. It’s all too tempting to hate Los Angeles for the wrong reasons, especially if you’ve never even been to Los Angeles. Here are some of those reason:
It’s not that bad, really. Anybody who has ever been to Bakersfield should know – Los Angeles has nothing on California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Only when you’re trying to find parking. Otherwise, the sprawl keeps it pleasantly spacious.
3. Crazy LA Drivers
I’ve bashed driving enough in this post, but my problem with driving in Los Angeles rests almost exclusively with the sheer magnitude of drivers. The individual drivers themselves aren’t bad at all. In fact, there are many things to like about the LA Driver. First of all, they will always go over the speed limit if possible. Seldom must you worry about getting stuck behind some guy going 50 in a 65 zone with miles of open freeway ahead of him. Secondly, LA Drivers are in a perpetual state of fear. They assume that everyone around them is an aggressive prick, so they are more than willing to give you that lane change you so desire just so you don’t chase them down and shoot them with a crossbow later on in your commute. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in an awkward courtesy situation at a four-way stop with all members just begging for the cross-traffic to go because God forbid we incite road rage before we have to sit in traffic on I-405 for an hour.
Yes, it seems as though things function quite well when there’s widespread fear of your fellow neighbor.
4. UCLA football. Go Bruins.
I’d write more, but I’m tired of writing this entry already.