Do you know the joke about the difference between Los Angeles and a bowl of yogurt?
The yogurt has more culture.
Ok, go ahead, you can laugh. It is actually pretty funny. But laughing at the joke and thinking it ends there is only missing the point. Yes, we lack a true city center or downtown like many American cities do, we may opt for a cool demeanor over urban sophistication and we must drive everywhere we go, but to be honest it’s not that bad. Yes, it does take getting used to it, but it’s the only place I’ve ever lived where I can see snow, ocean, desert and forest all in one day. It’s also the only place I’ve lived where I can eat any type of food from around the world in one day, and herein lies the beauty: we’re not like yogurt at all. Our culture come from dozens of neighborhoods all inextricably linked together, from thousands and thousands of immigrants who have made this their home, from matted knots of freeways that link us, and as inhabitants living on the edge of Western civilization. You can choose to get wrapped up in the frenetic pace of the “industry” if you’d like or you can choose to stand on the sidelines and watch from afar. You can even ignore it entirely.
It’s always hard to show new guests “around town.” Which town, I ask? My mind goes back to living in San Francisco, flying down for work meetings and wondering what the difference was between Burbank and LAX, if I’d see celebrities, and if I could just hop in a cab and head to a bar in downtown while staying in Studio City (distance, yes, and hell no, to answer those questions.) It took over a year to understand the geography of Southern California and how going from point A to point B becomes a daily challenge. Westside, The Valley, Downtown LA, the South Bay Curve, Orange County – it all became so confusing. But once deciphered, those little gems suddenly began to appear – Little Armenia, Little Saigon, Little India, Chinatown (there are 7 to be exact), and almost every place in between – and I’ve never been so excited to have so much to discover.
I’ve come to accept the common belief that it must suck to live here when I talk to others who haven’t spent time in Southern California. And it’s not for everyone. You can’t plop yourself in the middle of town (there is no middle) and absorb the energy and sights the same way you would in London or New York. It’s just not possible. But what this city does offer is equally as splendid, if just a bit hidden under the surface. It may take time, curiosity, and a set of car keys to discover it, but in my experience I’ve found it so totally worth it. Fer sure.
My personal connection to this state (where I’ve been living since 1996), originated when my grandparents and their families moved from Mexico to the US in the 1920s. Some settled in Texas, others in Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley. It was a typical migration pattern at the time (and still is to this day), and it gave my family an opportunity to visit Los Angeles while I was growing up. That 2 week vacation, with all of us piled into a station wagon, became of my most favorite memories ever. And once in Southern California it was like a dream come true- sunshine, pretty people, a relaxed attitude, movie studios and hot dog stands that sucked me in when I was 7 years old.
It did take me a while to make it out west though, spending 5 years in Chicago before moving to San Francisco, but the journey has been worth it. I learned that cold weather is not for me, temperatures below 5 degrees should be illegal, and a mild, sunny climate keeps me in good spirits. I’ve also learned that Austrian actors can become governors, a high cost of living can make one cry themselves to sleep, and running into TomKat around town in inevitable (and to my So Cal readers in the know, please note I said running into TomKat, not running into the Tomkat on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood because I would never do that. Anymore, I mean.)
In the next day or two I’ll get out from underneath a super secret project deadline and blog about a few places around Los Angeles we visited with our food loving best friends, Paul and Wade. Their visits to Los Angeles involve food, food, and more food, and they’re our guides and hosts when we visit San Francisco. See you in a few!
Oh, and David & Posh, welcome to LA. Stop by for tea when you get here – I’ve got tons of Spice Girl questions!