February 2, 2011

How to Live in Los Angeles

Grow up in Culver City, Brentwood or even Glendale. Know early on that your neighborhood will define you. Move to Los Angeles only if you’re from weird places like Ohio or Oklahoma and quickly discover that people born on the East Coast don’t usually set foot in L.A. In fact, they pretty much despise the city. Everyone’s too sun-fried, too lazy, dazed at the beach, or so they think.

Have a normal upbringing. Get dropped off at gallerias in middle school and house parties in Eagle Rock when you’re in high school. Know someone who knows someone who works in the entertainment industry. When you’re older and in a different city, tell people that “Growing up in L.A., you’re just surrounded by celebrities. It really wasn’t a big deal.”

Go away to college on the East Coast and become friends exclusively with people from L.A. Talk about the city like it’s a nervous tic. “OMG, I miss In-N-Out so much right now! Did you ever go to Il Trem? The one in the valley? Ugh, I just want to lay out in the sun and drive around in my car, you know?” Say these things over and over especially when it’s snowing or a homeless person has just peed on your leg in the subway. These conversations about L.A. are never interesting, but they provide you with a sense of comfort. You feel safer somehow. People from Massachusetts or Rhode Island will overhear and treat you like an alien. You kind of are, but that’s okay. You’re going to move back after college anyway!

Graduate and move back. Go to a coffee shop at 3:00 in the afternoon to apply for jobs and find it packed. Wonder how people actually make a living here. Everyone always talks about a new exciting project in the works and drives a BMW, but they’re still hanging out at Coffee Bean in the middle of the afternoon with nothing to do. Something isn’t quite right here.

Know that people spend an inordinate time in hotels. They go to lunch in hotels, party at hotel lounges, read a book by the pool, but never actually check into a room. This is strange. L.A. is strange.

Grow up on the Eastide and rarely step foot west of La Brea. Grow up on the Westside and rarely step east of La Brea. Understand that the distinction between the two different sides of L.A. is very important to Los Angelenos, but never fully understand why.

Be from the Valley, but sometimes claim you’re from Laurel Canyon or Bel Air…ish. Know that the Valley has its own culture. Tarzana, Chatsworth, Northridge, Van Nuys, Reseda, even Studio City: These are the cities where the majority of the world’s porn is produced. The weather is usually too hot or too cold. There are lots of malls and Yoshinoya’s. A lot of people don’t like the Valley.

Experience some beautiful moments in Los Angeles. Driving on PCH in the warm wind and smelling the Malibu ocean. Seeing the beautiful spanish architecture of the homes in Hancock Park. Driving late at night through the canyons. These will be times when L.A. will truly feel like “the easy life”, like some weird magical utopia. And in many ways, it is.

Los Angeles can be a dichotomy though. Be surprised to see something natural. Forget that you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains and oceans. Spend a lot of time staring at fake breasts and strip malls.

Notice a glaring contradiction with the healthy lifestyles people claim to live in L.A. These are the ones who spend their days swimming in the ocean, eating their macrobiotic lunch, doing yoga. But at night, they call their coke dealer, rage at a bar and go to an after-hours party. For many people, L.A. is GTC: Gym, tan, coke. “But it’s organic…”

A few quick things: Traffic sucks, the Mexican food does not, there’s great radio stations. People say this a lot; “I love L.A. but I hate L.A.”

Come to grips with the fact that L.A. will never make sense because it’s very geographical makeup is on crack. It’s a series of freeways, dead-end streets and giant car dealerships. People feel alienated and detached from their community, but then drive three blocks to the grocery store and wonder why they never meet anyone new.

Life here is like living in a hazy dreamworld that’s drenched in sun and smog. People wear $200 tracksuits to dinner. They say and do strange things, and love every second of their freakshow lives. Discover that the city doesn’t take itself too seriously. People can dress their dogs in fur-lined outfits, buy a whole new face and it’s fine because they’re in L.A. They pay good money to be able to live here and look absolutely ridiculous. Come to the conclusion that L.A. will never adapt, you will adapt to L.A. Admire the city’s unabashed attitude and think you’re going to stay here for a long time. TC mark