Nearly a year ago, Thought Catalog shared a piece entitled “How To Live In Los Angeles.” The piece traces how to “live in Los Angeles,” from birth to adulthood, in a very tongue-in-cheek manner…or is it? We tapped two writers who are from Los Angeles to share their thoughts on the piece, to counter how they think the way to live in Los Angeles is.
It was precisely forty-five minutes after I dropped my woolen circle-scarf in what is best described as an opaque liquid mass on the floor of a New York City bus that I was asked by two good friends whom I was visiting the current temperature in Los Angeles, the hometown to which I would be returning in three short days: “I dunno but I was wearing short sleeves when I left.” Indeed I was: even in January, it was sunny, clear and in the 70s. My friends cautioned that this begets weakness: “Come back to where it’s real.”
Ryan O’Connell’s How to Live in Los Angeles made me chuckle because while tongue-in-cheek, it also rang too true more often than I would care to admit (but I will): I grew up in Sherman Oaks; attended school on the East Coast; moved back to LA after college; applied to jobs in (and at…) The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf; and came to realize with every passing, unemployed day how uniquely strange the culture of the city is, or at least my experience of a culture that is somehow—and paradoxically—identifiable and indefinable.
Unlike O’Connell, however, the majority of my friends in college not only were not from LA but had never set foot on the West Coast (save for exactly two individuals, the kids I met from LA reminded me of why I fled the city in the first place). When I finally saw Annie Hall as a 20 year-old, I decided that I, too, did not want to return to a city “where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.” I did DC. I did NYC. And now I live in Los Angeles and am contributing to a blog that celebrates its contributions to culture, none of which relate to transportation.
And yet, this is a city that does seem unreal at times, as my aforementioned friend condemned it to be: the entertainment industry is the dominant one—if not in numbers, at least in rhetoric—and while there are people who work ninety hours a week here just to make ends meet, there is a sizable and visible segment of the population who works from home and earns obscene amounts of cash. As someone from the Valley who continues to inhabit it, I am a rare breed because I know how to get to places on the “other side of the hill”: my LA proper friends are equal parts clueless and dismissive of anything not in Hollywood or WeHo and my Valley friends think the 405 is the “only way” to change area codes and refuse to traverse it because they are unable to cope with “the parking situation.” For my part, I know my way around because I did the unthinkable and tried to be involved in theatre in Los Angeles, an endeavor that approximates a working definition of impossible and that also drove me to the ends of the earth. Quite literally.
I am aware that O’Connell’s article speaks to a very specific socioeconomic and ethnic demographic of which I am a part and naysayers will be quick to condemn him for this (as well they should, really). Not everyone works in entertainment or gets macrobiotic meals delivered to their homes, incapable of setting foot outside of them due to their latest plastic surgery procedures. Not everyone does coke, though for the record, I did attend a house party in Echo Park back in the day in which it was being snorted off a mirror, 1980s-style, and the city has never seemed as much of a parody of itself as it did at that moment.
And yet, I think O’Connell is onto something. We are diverse in terms of geography and social makeup, yet how many of us cross those self-imposed borders? It took me 23 years to actively participate in the Armenian side of my heritage; 24 years to seek out fellow Christians; and six years on the East Coast during which I accumulated unspeakable debt to realize that my predilection for the arts need not be explored solely from afar. My upbringing was a “normal,” insulated one and I am grateful for that: LA will always be home to me because of the ease with which I can lead my life here, sans overcrowding and the habitual natural disasters known to the rest of the world as “seasons.” It’s up to me now to be more than a stereotype, more than a white-ish girl from the Valley, more than just another blonde from California (at a fundraiser I attended while still living in New York, one guy sneered at me: “A blonde from California: how fuckin’ original”; unbeknownst to him, a natural blonde from California really is pretty fucking original). I love LA because life is sunnier here.
And I hate LA because life is sunnier here.