July 18th, 2005
Copied from a comment of mine in a friends only journal. It really came from the heart, so I thought it'd serve double duty.
One thing that Northern Californians don't appreciate is the personality of a city. You can spend the rest of your life moving from one big city to the next in whatever order you'd choose and you won't find another city cut from the same mould as LA. It isn't Paris, although it's spread out like Paris. It lacks the raw efficiency of San Francisco, cut out of their little peninsula. It lacks the roundabouts and highways of London and the traffic grids of Berlin, having leapt out of engineers minds.
Yeah, you can point at the smog and say it'll kill you to live there. Of course, it'll kill you to live anywhere, and we don't really know what it is that makes us live that long. Compared to how it was in the 50s, everyone in LA drives a hybrid, recycles religiously, and lay all manner of personal sacrifices on the altar of rampant environmentalism. Compared to the age of incinerators, everyone in LA pulls together and pushes beached whales back into the ocean.
The thing is about love is that it's not a matter of loving someone for all the good things they do to you. A significant other that makes the world's best hamburgers and has one waiting for you every Monday when you get home from work isn't love. Love is someone that you love spending time with, but becomes a real USDA-Certified Grade A bitch when you can't see through the fog of your passions and argue about who should be doing the dishes. Love is someone with whom you share the best and the worst of times with. Love is someone who causes both the best and the worst of times in a beautiful, synchronized dance of the fates and furies. They lift you higher. They push you off those cliffs too. And even though in your heart of emo hearts, it's the same as them beating the shit out of you, you know that it's trivial and that the goods outweigh the bads and that you can't blame them because you trust them. Cities love you like that, and in turn, you learn to love them.
Give me the smog. Take the 1/3 of my lungs that TV commercials claimed I lost by growing up in LA. Give me the traffic during rush hour, but also give me the sweet, sweet drive that is Sepulveda at 3am at night, drifting through turns, and getting the shit scared out of you by coyotes that no Greenpeacer'll ever admit exist in LA. Give me the Mexican ghettos, the billboards you can't read, the illegal immigrants who smack your car and leave you in a heap of self-pity and financial problems without the benefit of that legally mandated safety net called insurance. But give me those french dips at Felipe's, the pasta at Maria's, the luxurious dinners at the Odyssey, and watching the sunrise on Santa Monica pier with an egg sandwich handed to you by a guy from a cart just moments before.
I'd sell my soul to be back there right now with my nice, cushy job. Alas.
Beautiful response, but my journal isn't friends only by principle. :0)
But also, it's not just the Mexican ghettos, but Tijuana Dogs at 2AM after clubbing in Hollywood. It's knowing the difference between Korea Town, China Town, and Little Saigon. Or walking on Hollywood and Highland with tourists amazed with not just the scope of the city, but how dirty it is there. Or having the star tour people asking you for a tour and saying that's funny, you just saw Gwen Stefani walking in Old Town Pasadena the other day.
It's walking around downtown LA on top of the Chinese Underground tunnels near Union Station and knowing that the town is built on an incredible history. I've been down into those tunnels before they closed and you can smell the intensity of the past in every breath. Fuck Lombard street in San Francisco when you've got Angel's Flight, the shortest railroad in the world and I'm still pissed they closed it.
It's going down to Olvera street and seeing the same switchblade combs, bull whips, and religious icons in the same carts as when I was 5 years old.
It's Canters, the Pantry, the Bright Spot, and millions of other unique restaraunts open at all hours of the night and day.
Hell, it's the 110. People complain about highway 17 when the 110 is the oldest freeway in California and the only one that has people get onto it from a stop sign 5 feet from the moving traffic.
I couldn't remember if your journal was or that post was. What can I say? I'm a slacker ; )
Somewhere (and I think it was in los_angeles
) is a listing of all the different ways that the natives in the area have become a part of the city (for example, Cahuenga and Topanga are names that you and I know well. Cahuenga, IIRC, was the name of a tribe).
It's funny to think about some cities like SLO which came around because of the mission. LA is one of those cities that sort of grew out of the settlers in the area and eventually swallowed up a mission. I had a boss who said that's what worried him about LA; that it seemed to swallow up everything in its path.
Ray Bradbury had a lot to say about it (and I agree) that there's something very magical about the story of Abbot Kinney and the Venice Canals. That actually is a story that affected me in a lot of ways. I have very fond memories of the Santa Monica area.
I posted a while ago about one night
and I were hungry. I picked a direction, drove, and came across a decent 24 hour place. I like Tiny's and all, but it isn't anything approaching some of the good food to be found in LA in the dead of night.
Name a hobby. Name an interest. A cursory google will show you that there are people in LA who are interested and doing cool stuff. The oldest repeater in the world still operates in LA (147.240+). The list goes on.
And yeah, lots of LA is very, very cool and interesting roadway. I still hold that parts of downtown are the model of how traffic should be controlled. There are roads far scarier than 17 in LA. For example, some of the residential roads just off of Sepulveda.
Yet, in all that, you can go places in Van Nuys or San Fernando, park your car on the side of the road, and after a short 20m hike, you'd never know that you're near civilization except for the occasional plane that flies overhead. Anyone who says it's a concrete jungle has 1) never been to New York and 2) never really visited LA.
And in demonstrating the breadth of everything that goes on in LA: I've never been to the Bright Spot. Where's that?