I remember the first time I asked someone if they loved living in Los Angeles. My favorite film professor asked me what I thought of living here. I gushed for a moment: “I love the freedom and the cine-freaks everywhere. I love the Oscars– although not how they block traffic at my apartment. But the weather is awesome! I love… just… all of it. Do you like living here, sir?”
“No,” he said flatly. He then launched into a spicy tirade about traffic, overcrowding and shallow people– and that last bit was, I have to say, rather ironic coming from him. But I digress. I was floored. For the first time ever, this man, who walked on water in my world, was flat-out wrong. He made his living working in/with the film industry, for heaven’s sake! He lived in a film-lover’s Mecca! How could he not…?
I floated back to the rest of my life, solid in the knowledge that I had gotten the bonus points everyone gets just for visiting during Office Hours. He now knew my name (OMG! He knows my name!) and knew that I loved LA. I felt like I had made some social faux-pas for saying I that last bit and hoped he chalked it up to the enamoured passion of those fresh-faced kids with the stars in their eyes. Still, priorities: I would get the credit I needed to ace the class, so I was good. The moment was set aside. For a bit.
But the thing was, this happened more than once. I mean, only the one time with my favorite professor, but over the years, I have heard so many people bitching and moaning about living here. Oh, the traffic! Oh, the people!
It became a puzzle that I’d pull out every so often. Like a Rubic’s Cube, I’d poke at it for a few minutes, twist it around, and then put it back on its shelf, because I still hadn’t solved it. Why would anyone– especially someone single– be living in a town they hated?
I have a little bit more perspective now than I did back then. I now know that sometimes Life takes us in unexpected directions, that sometimes we end up in places we’d never have imagined ourselves otherwise. There are considerations: financial, emotional, familial, communal. And sometimes, we get stuck. I’ve been stuck before; I get it. And most of all, moving is
scary terrifying, not to mention a pain in the tuchas. In all of my travels, over and over, I kept hearing the phrase, “Leave my [family / friends / lover / job / favorite museum / poker group / whatever] behind? I could never do that.”
And that’s another thing! Stop saying that. Stop saying you could never. If you were violently sick everytime you ate a bagel, you could give up bagels. You might not like it, but you could do it. If someone you love to the moon and back were miserable Doing The Thing, you’d find a way for them around Doing The Thing. If you were offered a million dollars a year to live in Alaska, you’d… have to think about it really hard. (It’s cold up there, but then again, with a million dollars you could buy a lot of space heaters.) People make difficult decisions all the time, and usually, it’s because they feel they have to.
Where was I? Right. Moving. You could do it if you felt you had to.
Yes, traffic in Los Angeles sucks the big one, but it’s the same in Atlanta and Chicago, and it’s worse in San Francisco. And don’t even get me started on driving/parking in Manhattan. If you want the benefits of living in a big city, you’re gonna be dealing with traffic, just like everybody else.
Yes, there are shallow people in Los Angeles. I mean, you know, they congregate here in a much greater concentration than anywhere else that I can think of, because they all think they’re going to be the next producer/director/star. But really, every great city has its shadow side–that one bit that all the inhabitants kinda grin sheepishly with a shrug when you point it out. But the flip-side of L.A.’s shallowness is that this city is engrossed with beauty, and as such, there is beauty everywhere, both man made and natural– and often in the same person. Hello!
Maybe it’s that L.A. is an acquired taste. When you first come, all you see is cars and gray. And the Hollywood sign. It can be a little depressing. (Except for the Hollywood sign.) Actually, there’s a lot that can be crazy-making about this place. Perhaps it’s only a place you can love if you grew up here– and have no doubts that while my parents did not raise me in California, this is definitely where I Grew Up. But after a while, you can see past the gray to the mountains beyond. There’s a survivalist’s grace in the native vegetation. (YES, we have plants that grow out here natively.) And there’s a chillaxed attitude among even the most high-strung inhabitants, which eventually even the transplants adopt. (Or they leave.)
I still think the weather is gorgeous, although all the recent climate changes have me concerned for the effects we are experiencing here. (Really, more rain would be nice. If any of you have an In to get us any extra, we’d really appreciate it!) We have growing seasons all year long. Like, outdoors! You can get almost everything you need for your Thanksgiving Feast at a locals-only farmer’s market! Christmas and New Year’s too! (Except for the requisite can of cranberry sauce, because the stuff from the farmer’s market doesn’t have the ridges from the side of the can.)
And citrus trees are in everyone’s back yards, so you can have lemons, limes (helloooo, margaritas!), oranges, and grapefruits any time you want. And avocados: they’re dirt cheap here! Although I’m still hard-pressed to understand why anyone would want an avocado. Or a grapefruit. Still, if you like ’em, they’re everwhere here.
Los Angeles is a leading city when it comes to protecting the environment, because we have to be. Have you seen photos of this city in the 80s? And the pace is somehow slower for a big city. If you’re late to work because of traffic, everyone shrugs it off (because they only got in two minutes before you), and life goes on. People stroll down the street– if they’re walking at all. (It’s hard to live here without a car–not impossible, but certainly challenging.) But there’s no hustle. And I mean that in both senses of the word– pedestrians take their time AND there are very few pickpockets, because barely anyone actually uses sidewalks.
And as a cine-freak, you can see any kind of movie you want on the Big Screen. Last year, Honey and I went to see Raiders of the Lost Arc at the Egyptian Theater– a classic movie palace decked out in the gold-trimmed elegance people only dreamed of in the 30s. (Similar opportunities happen pretty much every weekend all over the city.) And there was Indy, in all his cinematic glory. It was so fascinating to see him larger than life once more. For one thing, I never realized how truly of-the-seventies that movie is!
Seriously, this town rocks. If there were one thing I’d change, you know what that would be? Oh, Genie Of The Lamp, my one wish is that the people that bitch about living here would go back to their greener grass. The world needs happy people, and I’m tired of the whiners bringing their psychic grime to my city. Besides, if they all left, that would fix our traffic issue.
Photo by ME!