The other night I was out and saw an old friend of mine. He was super drunk so I’ll give him a pass, but he said two things that annoyed the shit out of me. The first thing he said was “I used to be anti-Semitic, but now I think Jewish girls are hot.” (He literally said that.) When he asked me what I was up to, I told him that I was moving to LA in a few months. Then he said, slurringly, “Give me one good argument why LA is better than New York.” If you know me, I’m sure you can imagine how annoyed I was, but since you don’t know me I will assure you I was extremely annoyed. “I used to be anti-Semitic?” Anyway, the point is that when he asked me to provide him an “argument” for moving to LA (another really, really annoying thing to say), my mind went blank. I didn’t have one. I don’t need an argument to live somewhere, or prove that one city is better than the other, because I’m not insecure and don’t need a defense. But others might. And in fact, they usually do.
I moved to LA in July to try it out. I had been there dozens of times before but not for longer than a week. I’m from New York, born and raised on the east coast, so when I arrived there for my two month stint I felt… weird. I hadn’t driven in years and a really awesome dude named Pete loaned me his Landcruiser (that’s another story). The house I had subletted was on a narrow little street in the hills and I was scared shitless. Sure, I had GPS, but I still didn’t know anything.
I didn’t know that driving between the hours of 4 and 7p.m. made you want to get into the fetal position and start rocking back and forth. I didn’t know that I’d get a ticket if I didn’t park between the white lines. I didn’t know that if you’re not driving happy, you’re not gonna be happy at all because the majority of time is spent in your car. Of course I didn’t know that, I’m a New Yorker. I never drive, I just listen to people argue on the subway during rush hour and pretend like I can’t hear them. I was used to that. Human contact 24-7 rather than the autonomous lifestyle of LA.
Suddenly July was over. I remember the exact moment it happened. It was August 1st, actually, and I had to return the Landcruiser. I’m really short–the Landcruiser was like my monster truck–and no matter how used to it I got, I never fully felt like myself driving it. It symbolized my emotional tourism. It seemed like everyone else on the road was going to a party that I wasn’t invited to. Every time I drove I felt like I had just taken a huge bong hit: I got really thirsty and paranoid. Was I driving wrong? I swear, no matter where I went, it seemed like everyone in LA was giving me dirty looks. “LA is okay, but I’m a New Yorker,” I told my friends from home when I called them. But August 1st, I stopped making those calls. It was the day I got a new car.
My new car was not that exciting. It was a rented Hyundai Accent without automatic windows, but when I jumped in and started driving, it was as if I had suddenly lost 20 lbs. It was like I had been training for a marathon with weights on my ankles and suddenly I remembered that I was allowed to take the weights off. It felt awesome. Not only that, but I started to believe in my sense of direction. I kind of understood all that “north” and “south” business and turned the GPS off and stuck it under the seat. I knew the radio stations. I finally felt like I belonged. That’s when I stopped missing home so much.
I used to bitch about LA all the time, or rather love to explain how much better New York was, but it’s not. New York is amazing. It’s New York City! There’s no place like it and I hope there never will be. But it’s not better than any place else, it’s just different. When we feel awkward and insecure, we get homesick.
I used to say “no one thinks I’m funny in LA.” Why? Because I hung out with a few d-bags who didn’t laugh at my dumb jokes? How about the d-bags I hang out with in New York? They used to be anti-Semitic, but thank God for Jewish women being so good looking! There are d-bags everywhere, in every city. In fact a large percent of the Earth’s population is made up of them.
In my final month in LA, I felt like I had made a home there, and that’s why I’m going back. Not because it’s my new home, but because I get to add another one to the list and make my world just a little bit bigger. (There’s also hopefully more work for me, and my boyfriend lives there.)
I always had an argument for why New York was better than LA, but it was because New York is my home. I’m always gonna defend my home and even though LA was a great place to visit, I felt unsure of myself there because I didn’t know it so well. So all my bravado was really coming from my fear and insecurities. There is no argument. The two cities are both great and shitty in their own ways, as well as vastly different. It feels good to be able to admit that I hated on LA not because it sucked, but because in a way, I did.