Greater Los Angeles

I got back from Los Angeles last night and my head is still spinning. I'd move there again in a heartbeat.
There are three great cities in the United States: there's Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York – in that order.
I love Boston; I even love Denver; I like Miami; I think Washington DC is habitable; but Los Angeles is Los Angeles. You can't compare it to Paris, or to London, or to Rome, or to Shanghai. You can interestingly contrast it to those cities, sure, and Los Angeles even comes out lacking; but Los Angeles is still Los Angeles.

[Image: L.A., as photographed by Marshall Astor].

No matter what you do in L.A., your behavior is appropriate for the city. Los Angeles has no assumed correct mode of use. You can have fake breasts and drive a Ford Mustang – or you can grow a beard, weigh 300 pounds, and read Christian science fiction novels. Either way, you're fine: that's just how it works. You can watch Cops all day or you can be a porn star or you can be a Caltech physicist. You can listen to Carcass – or you can listen to Pat Robertson. Or both.
That's how we dooz it.
L.A. is the apocalypse: it's you and a bunch of parking lots. No one's going to save you; no one's looking out for you. It's the only city I know where that's the explicit premise of living there – that's the deal you make when you move to L.A.
The city, ironically, is emotionally authentic.
It says: no one loves you; you're the least important person in the room; get over it.
What matters is what you do there.

[Image: An extraordinary photograph, called 4.366 Braille, by jenlund70].

And maybe that means renting Hot Fuzz and eating too many pretzels; or maybe that means driving a Prius out to Malibu and surfing with Daryl Hannah as a means of protesting something; or maybe that means buying everything Fredric Jameson has ever written and even underlining significant passages as you visit the Westin Bonaventura. Maybe that just means getting into skateboarding, or into E!, or into Zen, Kabbalah, and Christian mysticism; or maybe you'll plunge yourself into gin-fueled all night Frank Sinatra marathons – or you'll lift weights and check email every two minutes on your Blackberry and watch old Bruce Willis films.
Who cares?
Literally no one cares, is the answer. No one cares. You're alone in the world.
L.A. is explicit about that.
If you can't handle a huge landscape made entirely from concrete, interspersed with 24-hour drugstores stocked with medications you don't need, then don't move there.
It's you and a bunch of parking lots.
You'll see Al Pacino in a traffic jam, wearing a stocking cap; you'll see Cameron Diaz in the check-out line at Whole Foods, giggling through a mask of reptilian skin; you'll see Harry Shearer buying bulk shrimp.
The whole thing is ridiculous. It's the most ridiculous city in the world – but everyone who lives there knows that. No one thinks that L.A. "works," or that it's well-designed, or that it's perfectly functional, or even that it makes sense to have put it there in the first place; they just think it's interesting. And they have fun there.
And the huge irony is that Southern California is where you can actually do what you want to do; you can just relax and be ridiculous. In L.A. you don't have to be embarrassed by yourself. You're not driven into a state of endless, vaguely militarized self-justification by your xenophobic neighbors.
You've got a surgically pinched, thin Michael Jackson nose? You've got a goatee and a trucker hat? You've got a million-dollar job and a Bentley? You've got to be at work at the local doughnut shop before 6am? Or maybe you've got 16 kids and an addiction to Yoo-Hoo – who cares?
It doesn't matter.
Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it's bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don't matter. You're free.

[Image: Two beautiful photos by Andrew Johnson; here's the left, here's the right].

In Los Angeles you can be standing next to another human being but you may as well be standing next to a geological formation. Whatever that thing is, it doesn't care about you. And you don't care about it. Get over it. You're alone in the world. Do something interesting.
Do what you actually want to do – even if that means reading P.D. James or getting your nails done or re-oiling car parts in your backyard.
Because no one cares.
In L.A. you can grow Fabio hair and go to the Arclight and not be embarrassed by yourself. Every mode of living is appropriate for L.A. You can do what you want.
And I don't just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversity and so we should celebrate it on that level and be done with it; I mean that Los Angeles is the confrontation with the void. It is the void. It's the confrontation with astronomy through near-constant sunlight and the inhuman radiative cancers that result. It's the confrontation with geology through plate tectonics and buried oil, methane, gravel, tar, and whatever other weird deposits of unknown ancient remains are sitting around down there in the dry and fractured subsurface. It's a confrontation with the oceanic; with anonymity; with desert time; with endless parking lots.
And it doesn't need humanizing. Who cares if you can't identify with Los Angeles? It doesn't need to be made human. It's better than that.

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Blogger Steven said...

Really interesting article. I live in Perth, Western Australia, which is a lot smaller, and a lot more 'civilised' perhaps. We find American cities very curious places: the extremities are quite grotesque, yet intriguing and sometimes intoxicating all the same.

October 13, 2007 2:50 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

wow, that really captures how it feels to live here. A place with everything yet nothing.

October 13, 2007 3:37 AM  
Blogger andropolis said...

Awesome post. I just moved here (to Pasadena, actually, so it's not quite the same thing), and I think you've pretty much nailed what I've been trying so hard to articulate for the past several months. Thanks so much for posting this, and I'm glad you dig the pictures!

October 13, 2007 4:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently met some young people from LA. They had these super-snaz cellphones. I told them to call me so I'd have their number, and they'd have mine. This was a go until I produced my phone: A VirginMobile Kyocera K9 purchased five years ago. No camera. The screen isn't even in color. Suddenly they weren't interested in calling me, lest their phones catch whatever my phone had.

So go ahead and wear your Fabio hair in LA... Just make sure you're buying a fashionable phone to match it. They might not care about anything, but even Angelino bums have cool phones.

October 13, 2007 4:11 AM  
Anonymous Matthew said...

this post tops them all I think. brilliant.

October 13, 2007 5:23 AM  
Blogger robertmichaels said...

I thought I was reading Americablog, so you can imagine my shock when I saw the word "Carcass." RSS readers FTW.

The reason for the confusion? I sort by the ones I read most, and yours and that one are both at the top. Keep up the great work.

October 13, 2007 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's an interesting take. I'm an urban planning student that lives in LA, close to downtown. Actually, I have lukewarm feelings towards LA and actually DON'T love it for the same reason as why you like it. Sure it's paradise...if you're a hedonist. Don't get me wrong, there are great aspects to LA - namely the diversity , great cuisines, and plentitude of beautiful women, but if you've lived here for 20 years or so then you know that there's a really depressing dynamic to LA. Watch Michael Mann movies like Heat and Collateral, her really nails down that feel. Nobody cares, true. That's the one problem I have with it.

October 13, 2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Lester Spence said...

I dislike L.A. Far too physically decentralized. But there IS something to be said for a city that has so much subcultural diversity.

October 13, 2007 9:32 AM  
Blogger polizeros said...

My wife grew up in L.A. and I lived there for 30 years, and we recently moved away.

Yes, the diversity and energy is amazing.

But the infrastructure is disintegrating. Paralyzing endless delays on freeways. (My wife had a client 17 miles away. The drive generally was 90 minutes each way.)

The water is piped in from hundreds of miles away. Ditto for 50% of the electrical power. (It's generated on coal plants on Indian reservations in other states, no joke.)

Then there's the ongoing drought which shows no signs of ending.

Sooner rather than later, it seems inevitable that something major in the infrastructure will break.

October 13, 2007 10:18 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

So, Geoff, I'll tell you a secret. Just as you sent me your email telling me you'd taken your new job in San Francisco, I was composing one to you advising you to stay in Los Angeles, because it was clear that that's where your mytho-poetic sense of the world resides, as is clear in this beautiful and insightful post. But just then, your email arrived telling me you'd taken the job, and I decided just to slip in a suggestion that you slow down in your determination to move, which I did the following day. But it didn't make a difference.

Yes, Los Angeles is wonderful, though as someone who doesn't drive, my own mythopoetry doesn't reside there. Mine is split between downtown Manhattan and San Francisco, where you and I now live across the street from one another. That mythopoetic split became a difficult fact of my life over a decade ago; because of the fact that my wonderful spouse doesn't like it there, we can't move there, and I have accepted this state of permanent half-exile as my personal flavor of the human condition (dukkha, sayeth the Buddha).

I'm glad you know where your mythopoetry resides, my friend. So I have a suggestion: move back to L.A. in a heartbeat.

And my vajra sword adds this: Please, please, spare us, your faithful readers, a year of posts about how you'd much rather be living in Los Angeles, a year of posts that do an injustice to the beautiful place where you're actually living, by constantly denigrating it in the neon light of your true love. I'm sick to death of ambitious people moving to San Francisco and complaining the whole time about how it's not L.A. or New York, and whining about how it's not whatever it was they expected, which usually boils down to "I thought San Francisco would give me X, but it's not doing that!" ...as if the good to be gotten from a city is what you can take from it, rather than what you can add to it.

It's easy to imagine a post about how awful and hellish L.A. is that employs the same particulars in your post. The difference? Your heart is generous with everything you see there. ("A new world is only a new mind," sayeth W.C. Williams.) You and Nicky should live where your heart feels generous; and San Francisco doesn't need any more people lecturing it about how it should feel inadequate because it's not somewhere else. It needs its own heroes: people who are committed to making it great here and now by doing and making stuff that leverages the city's unique beauties, and forming fertile collaborative bonds with other people who live here -- like everywhere; like you would be in L.A.

There, I've said it.

October 13, 2007 11:57 AM  
Blogger Mike Laursen said...

It's funny. I grew up in L.A., and now live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I think of L.A. as a place where there's too much conformity and San Francisco as the place where you can invent whatever lifestyle you want to invent.

Maybe one can never see the place where one grew up as others see it.

October 13, 2007 12:33 PM  
Blogger progressive reactionary said...

Well said.

-PR

October 13, 2007 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Phillip Cameron said...

i am moving from sam francisco to go to school at SCI-Arc, and this blog entry scares me... it confirms everything i fear about los angeles.

October 13, 2007 1:37 PM  
Blogger artlung said...

I don't agree with all you've said, but then, I'm a sometime Angeleno too (currently residing in Ventura County but commute to Culver City for work).

Let's meet at Pink's for a hot dog and discuss.

I love L.A., as strange as that may sound to the millions who despise it.

You might like the Militant Angeleno Blog, for more rants about the wonderfulness of L.A.

October 13, 2007 1:41 PM  
Blogger a guy named dave. said...

i read your post and this made me miss LA a lot. im currently studying in london and have been thinking a lot about LA (ill be back in a year). to me, london is a city that is spread out like la, but still somewhat ontop of each other like new york. anyway thanks for the cool post :D

dave
http://imdavevalk.blogspot.com

October 13, 2007 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is one thing that gets the attention of everyone in Los Angeles, and it happened last night: rain. Of all things, the rain always surprises us.

October 13, 2007 2:07 PM  
Blogger Erin V. Reinhart said...

Your friend Steve's post is interesting and amusing. I spent a year in my city complaining how it wasn't the last city I lived. Is it a classic case of the grass is always greener? Or in your case, the paved parking lots more poetic?

October 13, 2007 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Lost America said...

Gee, that was well written.

YooHoo and Vodka- the "Russian Trucker." You'll love it, it's a way of life.

LA is paralyzed by its transportation system, rendering the entire region uninhabitable. Everything is there, yes, but if it takes 90 minutes inching along in your car to get there to experience it, who cares?

And I agree with everything Steve said.

October 13, 2007 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first real experience with LA was in 98, and my overall impression was that it was "Downtown Anywhere", looking no different from the strip malls and fast food joints in any other town in the US, save for the fact that it seemed to sprawl on endlessly- a vast, reiterating sequence of McDonald's and Borders stretching to beyond the horizon, a sea of undifferentiated commercialism. Those I stayed with seemed to have only one desire- to shop, which we did frequently, and took me to various stores and restaurants as if to showcase their superior native culture, which I found all too empty and soulless. After spending so much time in their vast, cathedral-like malls, I was finally able to gain an enriching hour or so at Griffiths Observatory, which they seemed determined to leave as quickly as possible, as if its existence hinted at something terrible and frightening beyond their conception of the universe. The fact that traveling anywhere on the freeways gave me the impression of suddenly being an extra in a Speed Racer cartoon as you careen past the wreckage and debris of past travelers through some sort of fascist architectural labyrinth didn't help any either. At least you're not generally distracted by the endlessly repetitive scenery. Truly a nightmare, if you ask me, but then I'm not much for cities. I was horrified by New York too, with its constant rain of trash from the skies and streets littered with debris, both inanimate and human, as though one were walking at the bottom of some vast and impossibly steep morass, gaining knowledge of the upper world only from what little plunged to its destruction below.

Don't get me wrong, as I'm sure that here and there some archipelago of cultural distinctiveness emerges from such hostile (or perhaps indifferent would be a better word?) waters now and again, and many of them are truly beautiful. And I'm glad you like it. Willingly living somewhere that you know seems to openly admit that it doesn't care a jot for your existence is at least facing up to the reality that we are but tiny and inconsequential beings who live in a random and meaningless universe. I commend that, although most people would probably prefer at least a veneer of comforting delusion. Hear, Hear for abjuring such sophistry and both consciously and unreservedly striding forth into such an unsympathetic environment. Me? I'll stick with my forests and small backroads, lost in a living and breathing ocean of greens and browns and blues, equally immense by comparison to my own tiny existence, but personally far more inviting.

Which is more the illusion, I wonder- the artificiality of the city, or the false wilderness of the country?

-Mnynames

October 13, 2007 4:06 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

LA: Alone under a vast sky of indifference. So true!

October 13, 2007 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not quite on topic...
but just to say that I am really looking forward to the bldgblog book, like you wouldn't believe.

October 13, 2007 8:11 PM  
Blogger Student said...

I was born in L.A, lived out most of my early conscious childhood in the Valley (still LA), and then went to high school in OC (Irvine- but still LA). Now I live in Oakland (and go to school at Berkeley, and work in SF).

I want to take a nuanced look at LA, but I definitely feel sympathetic to the sentiments of Lester Spence and Mike Laursen.

What do I mean by that? Spence nails it. LA is amazingly subculturally diverse, but far too decentralized to be a real city. Maybe even this decentralization is responsible for said subcultural diversity. Yet at the same time, I also agree with Mike Laursen in that it is a place of conformity. In the alienating concrete jungle that is LA, you feel like you need to be loyal to the daily motions of your respective subculture. Its like living in Feudal Europe where there is no Roman Empire to centralize cultural and political life, so you're forced to be devoutly obedient to your Fief (your subculture).

I personally feel that a centralized city like SF and NY are the only places where you can really 'be' (who you are).

In short, growing up in LA sucked; in retrospect, however, LA's alienating awesomeness and its conveniences can be a huge + after learning about "the city" (centralizeD) mentality.

October 14, 2007 1:20 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I don't really feel like SF is a centralized city; in fact, its biggest tragedy is that its putative center, downtown, is a wasteland at night. SF is a decentralized city of neighborhoods, which makes it feel like a small town for people who like megalopoli like Geoff's big three.

But that's not why I'm posting again tonight. I'm posting to apologize for getting carried away this morning and to say loudly: What a gorgeous post, Geoff! As my friend David just observed in email, few people write about L.A. as knowingly as Geoff does. This is great writing.


In Los Angeles you can be standing next to another human being but you may as well be standing next to a geological formation. Whatever that thing is, it doesn't care about you. And you don't care about it. Get over it. You're alone in the world. Do something interesting.
Do what you actually want to do – even if that means reading P.D. James or getting your nails done or re-oiling car parts in your backyard.

Because no one cares.

In L.A. you can grow Fabio hair and go to the Arclight and not be embarrassed by yourself. Every mode of living is appropriate for L.A. You can do what you want.
And I don't just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversity and so we should celebrate it on that level and be done with it; I mean that Los Angeles is the confrontation with the void.


Thank you for the beauty here every day, Geoff. Wherever you can write like that is home, even in temporary exile.

October 14, 2007 1:56 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Steve, I appreciate the concern! But I have a great job up here and a whole lot of other enthusiasms, the vast majority of which don't involve Los Angeles. So I think San Francisco will be okay!

And I'll just add, in relation to other comments, that loyalty to a particular subculture should be avoided at all costs.

October 14, 2007 1:12 PM  
Blogger Nigel said...

Awesome

October 14, 2007 2:22 PM  
Blogger autoautistic said...

Moving from New York to LA I got the impression that the main difference wasn't in culture or climate or "vibe" (although these are all quite distinctive in each), but in sheer topology. New York to me is the city of Time Out and Zagat's, where every new development is noted, discussed, and catalogued, dead on arrival. This may be part of the reason that a lot of new NY architecture stays pretty far back from the edge (yeah, even you, 40 Bond).
LA, on the other hand, for reasons of decentralization, scale, diversity, or sheer contrarian stubbornness, appears to be unmappable in it's entirity-- as if in order to get a mental map of the entire city you'd need to interview each member and weave all of these subjective worlds together. I have never gotten as lost or as bewildered and frightened as I have in LA, and for that reason it is for me a singularity. In it's own dreams, Los Angeles seams together Jefferson and Sunset, Sepulveda and Atlantic, no edges and no reality save itself.

October 14, 2007 4:00 PM  
Blogger atley said...

Don't get me wrong, there are great aspects to LA - namely the diversity , great cuisines, and plentitude of beautiful women, but if you've lived here for 20 years or so then you know that there's a really depressing dynamic to LA.

I just peaked 20 years, and I'm 24. You are wrong. The longer time you spend in LA the more you like it, the more you open it up, the more it exposes itself to you.

This post nailed Los Angeles and I've been saying similar things for years. Well played.

October 14, 2007 4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent comment by Mike Laursen.
This post is a good roadmap of one's mindset for the first couple years of living in LA (if they're predisposed to get it); or on second thought, it's the same stuff I felt the first couple years I lived in nyc, so maybe it's just what Mike said.

My take is: the longer you stay in LA the more comfortable you get.

October 14, 2007 6:37 PM  
Blogger MATTHEW ROSE said...

LA, the peach and the pit, the sand and sunburn. Been there, gotten lost in the butterfly patterns of highway/skyway, walked into a bar in broad daylight with sunglasses and was suddenly a "producer" with a bankroll, wannabes sucking up to me, an art junkie from the East Coast in town to help my aunt through a gall bladder operation.

The parking lots, the spaces filled by emptiness, the openess so wide nothing takes root, that's LA for me: Henry Chinaski's six pack poetry, John Fante's lust. A warehouse of optimism, and the content of a rambling blog. I see the metal siding glinting.

So...where I'm sitting: In Paris, France...the view looks inviting. This is the place (LA) where I can sell my novel, PLAN B, or exhibit my full on installations, or sing my song, I Have A Car... or run into (by foot, I hope), Lindsay Lohan or Bob Barker. This is the genius of this city: a complete construction of the minds around you and the implosion of your own.

Matthew Rose / Paris / http://lalandedigitalpress.blogspot.com/

October 14, 2007 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this post. It makes me want to visit LA right away, and maybe even set up camp.

I feel pretty strongly that Washington DC is the worst city in the United States. Scratch that off your list of interesting places. I haven't been moved to take even one picture in the year I've been here.

October 14, 2007 8:03 PM  
Blogger Beat said...

That post was a complete pile of rubbish compared to your usually insightful and interesting views.

I "get" it - you can do whatever you want in L.A, no need to repeat yourself three times.

How is this different from any other city in the world though? Are there cities where complete strangers on the streets DO care about each other? Where you're not alone?

That's the very essence of big city living; no one gives a damn what anyone else is doing. This does not make L.A unique in any way in my opinion.

October 14, 2007 8:29 PM  
Blogger chris said...

G, this was fun to read, and makes me wish I knew LA better. I'm still looking for that perfect city-muse. Hopefully, when I find it, I'll have good enough sense to realize that it's sitting in front of me. Can't wait!

A professor in grad school told me once that a fixed narrative is the kiss of death for a place, and I think that's true. It's thrilling to be where that isn't the case--which absolutely isn't everywhere (per the previous comment).

October 14, 2007 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, I don't blame you for missing LA -- but here's a belated welcome to SF just the same.

There are plenty of other places as interesting as the Marin Headlands you just wrote about to be found here.

And though you might run across Pacino, Diaz or Shearer on any given day in LA, I just ran across Blixa Bargeld getting his groceries in a slick vintage suit at the SOMA Trader Joe's yesterday morning in SF -- now that's pretty friggin cool...

October 14, 2007 11:00 PM  
Blogger Brady Westwater said...

And in what other city would a wrestling cowboy blogger be declared king by the local paper of record?

October 15, 2007 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was born in L.A. I grew up in the two of the two most famous suburban ghettos in the city, Canoga Park and Pomona.

I've had guns pulled on me several times as a teen in these areas, and grew up fearing the center of the city.

At the age of 23, I finally moved to the center "real" Los Angeles and I love it. I studied Architecture in Florence Italy, and have literally travelled to most major cities in the world in Europe and Southeast Asia.

Yes, the surfing in Florence sucks, the bagels in L.A. Suck, and the Korean food in New York sucks, and the fishing in Alaska probably is better than any of the aforementioned places.

The Point is, every city must be taken for what it's worth. And there are several citie throughout the world that literally blend into each other, imitate each other, and follow traditional modes of growth and development. Usually it's a Roman Grid, followed by a Medieval walls and some spiderweb type circular plan, and then a larger grid etc etc....

Los Angeles doesn't follow any of these rules. It is truely, historically, architecturally, culturally, and even linguistically FREE. My english was corrected in England. In Los Angeles, if you can grunt what you basically want, NO one will correct you, and everyone will treat you with respect.

I find it to be an amazing land of opportunity for foreigners from basically anywhere. I know people who ONLY know chinese and have lived here for 25 years. You can buy a house, bank, work and shop knowing nothing more than Spanish, Amenian, Chinese, and probably a couple other languages. I know the rest of the country is currently goind insane over the loss of precious "white" america, and immigration..... But guess what... Los Angeles went through it 50 years ago, and we're a better place for it.

Some people "get" Los Angeles, and some don't. But it is undisputedly one of the most unique places in the world.

It's the restaurants, bars and beautiful places that are hidden, without signs, in strange neighborhood. It is not a city for the lazy. The coolest stuff takes effort. The most beautiful beach in Malibu is one in which you have to walk a city block, down 1000 steps, and 15 minutes along the beach. But tell me another major city, where you can surf waves as good as North Shore Hawaii, at least 4 days a year.

Also, LA Art scene is Very strong and alive, showing in galleries in Chelsea etc. The LA Music scene is as good as any city could possibly get. Look at my website for proof. Seeing Beck, Elliott Smith, Lou Barlow, all at the same time at the same bar would not have been out of the question 5 years ago.

I've been to so many illegal underground speak easy clubs, with amazing bands, and the cops are so busy with the serious crimes and murder rate of 550 per year, that they don't even care. I love this about LA.

I could type for days.
If you haven't lived here...it's worth giving a chance.

I LOVE LA!!
Octavius
demolisten.org

October 15, 2007 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to live in LA and still love it. Now in New York. There's not much in this post that someone else hasn't already said, but I think it's important for everyone to recognize that this post is written for a relatively well-off audience. The LA experience is socio-economically diverse and this post strikes me as particularly focused on the sorts of things relatively privileged people who live there get to do (i.e. the Joan Didion school of thought). Personally, having seen many less fortunatute people try to get by in that decentralized city--while raising a family--well, it's not easy for them. Not everyone can afford cars and the bus system sucks. The best part--the beaches--are hard to get to and the parking is expensive. Say what you want about New York, but the subway costs $2 and the Met is free.

October 15, 2007 6:00 PM  
Blogger Alan Wiig said...

This from "Heretical Constellations: Notes on California, 1946-61, by Rebecca Solnit, a writer based out of San Francisco, from "Beat Culture and the New America":
"Robert Irwin...once remarked, 'See, what I've always liked about this town [Los Angeles], still do, is that it's one of the least restrictive towns in the world. You can pretty much live any way you want to here. And part of that is because the place has no tradition and no history in that sense. It doesn't have any image of itself, which is exactly its loss and its gain.'"

October 15, 2007 6:21 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

this post strikes me as particularly focused on the sorts of things relatively privileged people who live there get to do

Such as feeling totally alone, surrounded by parking lots?

I think you're right - that only happens to rich people.

October 15, 2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Further: Say what you want about New York...

I think I recall saying that New York is one of three great cities in the United States.

Leading me to ask: did you actually read this post, anonymous?

October 15, 2007 6:35 PM  
Blogger Alan Wiig said...

I didn't bother looking at the notes to Solnit's article I quoted above, but she found the reference in Laurence Weschler's "Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees." Given that Weschler is speaking about his book of convergences with BldgBlog tomorrow night, I suppose this is another convergence.

October 15, 2007 6:38 PM  
Anonymous liliana said...

I disagree. Just because you don't care doesn't mean that no one cares. You can't make generalizations about the city like this because there are so many different communities here and so much inter-community hostility. I like living in LA, but I have to say that I have experienced and witnessed more class stratification and racism here than I would ever have thought possible. This idea that no one cares and that's what makes LA great seems to only touch the surface of what LA is really about. The LA you write about doesn't necessarily include the enirety of LA, and even if you do include two sentences that mention working class lifestyles, the whole premise of this article comes off as a perspective of privelege.

October 15, 2007 9:39 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Well, excuse me, but being emotionally abandoned by the world isn't something that only happens to the rich!

And if you think it is - if you think that not being cared about is something that only people of privilege experience - then clearly we exist in different worlds.

Your suggestion that someone needs to be from a "perspective of privelege [sic]" in order to turn abandonment - to turn the fundamental emptiness of the universe - into a source of creative energy strikes me as literally ridiculous, as well as somewhat obviously belittling to the very people you think you're trying to defend.

October 15, 2007 11:18 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

I grew up in Oakland & SF, moved to LA for 10 years, and just moved back to the Bay. It took me 7 of those 10 years to even begin to 'get' LA, which allowed me to start liking it and appreciating it for what it is and to stop trying to make it a 'real' city.

When I moved back North, I was shocked to find how much I had come to appreciate LA's 'no one cares' apathetic mindset. I now flinch at the constant flow of opinions and judgement spewing from every corner up here. It is jarring compared to Los Angeles, but as I sink into the SF rhythm, I realize it may simply be a cultural difference of expression. There is not always as much heat packed behind the rhetoric as it may first appear.

And there are plenty more people who could fit your description of Los Angelenos - they're just not as loud, and so you won't notice them quite as quickly. Sort of how the fake-fried-blond-hair fake-boobed fake-nosed types eventually faded away from the front and center of my view of LA.

In short, give it time. Every city means something a little different to every inhabitant, and it may take a bit to find out what SF means for you.

October 16, 2007 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Alison's observation about the opinions of Bay Area dwellers. I grew up in the Bay Area and lived there for the first 18 years of my life and have subsequently spent the past 7 living in Los Angeles. Both places are similar in that they both possess a relatively tolerant environment for living. That being said, people in the Bay Area tend to pay a lot more lip service to various causes and tend to consider themselves holier than thou (thou being the rest of the country, especially Los Angeles). I never really understood this hatred for Los Angeles. Many people from San Francisco consider people from Los Angeles to be "fake", whereas I agree with Geoff's comment that LA is emotionally authentic. Bottom line is that Los Angeles doesn't have to make excuses for being what it is and that seems to really bother people. I happen to enjoy it. Whenever I have guests from out of the state or country, they tend to enjoy San Francisco more (it's more picturesque and tourist friendly, that I will give it). When it comes to livng though, Los Angeles is far superior in the amenities and resources that it has to offer and has an energy like no other place that cannot be understood unless one is willing to surrender themselves to the city and allow room for discovery.

October 16, 2007 12:55 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Geoff please don't move back to LA from SF. If you stay away you will appreciate LA each time you visit and we will get more fantastic posts like this. Thanks!

October 16, 2007 1:01 AM  
Blogger emKem said...

Geoff, brilliant. I write about this city constantly but you've really captured an essence I couldn't put my finger on. Thank you :o)

October 16, 2007 1:38 AM  
Anonymous aphexddb said...

I miss Los Angeles, thanks for the memories. In a flash you managed to summarize both how and what it means to be LA. Spot on!

October 16, 2007 10:15 AM  
Blogger Dinovix said...

Well done. I think there is something to be said for a city that is nothing more than what it claims to be just like the people in it. What I find astonishing is the people that move here, myself included often come under the pretense of finding freedom. I came from stifling Illinois suburbs and bought into the classic film noir depiction of LA. When you get here, you realize it is less about being free than feeling free. Who knows how free you can be in a city that sets the standards of cool, obscene or decadence in the world. All I know is that there are millions of non LA natives in LA and they have a tendency to flock together, perhaps this is because they can't quite bring themselves not to care. Try as we might we succumb to our emotions and ironically end up more judgmental than those who didn't even notice there was someone standing next to them.

October 16, 2007 2:24 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Add this to the small but growing list of post-post-modern works of writing.

October 16, 2007 2:40 PM  
Blogger Sherrie said...

There is only one thing that sucks about LA. And it's not the traffic (crippling), it's not the smog (makes for beautiful sunsets), it's not Paris Hilton (village whore)...

It's New Yorkers who move here and then start criticizing everything in sight. This isn't a bagel! This isn't pizza! You call this a baseball team? Shut the hell up and get out of my town.

October 16, 2007 5:45 PM  
Blogger benja said...

L.A. is a shit box. But it is super fun in a convertible.

October 16, 2007 5:49 PM  
Blogger logik said...

Fake boobs, sculpted bodies, LV bags, botox, SUV's ... yes, this certainly typifies the denizens of LA who do not care what anyone thinks.

LA represents everything great and wrong about America.

October 16, 2007 6:27 PM  
Blogger fake said...

I went to LA in 2005 and took some pictures.

My favorite image is the sidewalk stamp -- "CITY OF L.A." put there permanently like someone might steal it.

October 16, 2007 7:08 PM  
Blogger Sharkbait said...

All of my family lives in LA. I'm not embarrassed by them when I visit them there.

October 16, 2007 10:42 PM  
Anonymous The_Overdog said...

Articles like this are so disjointed as to have written by someone who has never been anywhere else...I've been to LA 3 times to visit, do the star maps thing, take in a TV show, and all that was novel, but beyond that, LA is just like every other city in the US.

There are the same restaurants, the same chain stores, the same houses, the same cars, the same basic layout.

I mean seriously, you can do all the things you mention in that paragraph in Lubbock TX, and no-one that didn't know you would care. You couldn't surf, but I don't see that you've mentioned that as a good thing about LA.

The sad thing seems to be that you think growing a beard or driving a Prius or watching COPS is some kind of brave lifestyle statement rather than an indication that you are consuming the same things everyone else is.

Based on this post, LA comes across as vapid and small minded as the haters make it out to be.

October 16, 2007 11:47 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

What you write is true of this amazing, empty place. We get our fulfillment from what we have, what we do, who we know.... not where we live.

This city continues to surprise me with its secret spots and ever changing kaleidoscope of what is now, hip, important.

Yeah, my husband and I have phones that are over 3 years old. And we prefer Carney's over Pink's.

We have as many incarnations of ourselves as this city does. We are comic nerds, sci-fi geeks, movie nazis, porn stars, concerned citizens, historians of the absurd, supplicants at the altar of shopping, parking, driving. We are the hopeful future even in our middle age. Someday we will be able to afford a regular life, but only if we leave this amazing place.

And that ain't gonna happen!

October 16, 2007 11:52 PM  
Blogger Johnny Chang said...

well said geoff. i love LA - i love the void.

October 17, 2007 1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just last night i read an essay titled: L.A. Demystified! Art and Life in the Eternal Present by Peter Schjeldahl. I can't seem to find it online, but it really reminded me of your post. Great read!

October 17, 2007 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just moved from LA to Boston, and I miss the anonymity. There are "one way" signs all over the streets here in Boston, and that should be the slogan for this whole area. One way to dress. One way to live. One team to root for. And if you stray at all from that, you'll be met with confused, xenophobic reactions. Most people here grew up here and think this is the way life should be, and it works for them. But for me, I'll take LA. Even with the traffic and vacant people and parking lots. At least it's real.

October 17, 2007 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article has one very gross inaccuracy that can be remedied by putting "unless you are a smoker" after just about everything you've said.

October 17, 2007 1:19 PM  
Blogger QT said...

This is true so true.
To live in Los Angeles
Is to live nowhere

And everywhere!

QT
wip-qt.blogspot.com

October 17, 2007 4:29 PM  
Blogger andy said...

After growing up in southern New Jersey and spending the last 7 years in New York, the most striking thing about LA was how much it really just resembled New Jersey. Except, where New Jersey has added little patches of "forest" in between the parking lots, LA has just put in another parking lot.

October 17, 2007 4:33 PM  
Anonymous ForeignMama said...

I am born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One the most exciting and hedonists places in the world. Los Angeles reminds me Rio a lot. I live in San Francisco now, and I have a love/hate relationship with the fog and the freezing ocean waters, but SF is truly a city that condenses in a small and walkable geography a lot of things that civilized souls crave...
And it inspires my writing a lot (not as much as Rio used to, but, well...):

http://foreignmama.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/10/only-in-san-fra.html

October 17, 2007 5:22 PM  
Blogger Polly Jean said...

i am not defined by living in los angeles. i am not a hedonist. i never answer my phone. the people i know are nice lovely human beings. it is the way i design it to be.

great post.

October 17, 2007 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also a former angeleno now living in the bay area, and it's interesting how much people's impressions of LA vary. I think of the green of Griffith Park, concerts in the Hollywood Bowl, shopping in the garment district and Santee Alley, Santa Monica's beaches full of people from all walks of life, Venice's bodybuilders and other eccentrics, where you can walk from the train station downtown to get a french dip at Philippe's and feel like you're in a different era, then walk through Olvera Street and up to the Gehry-designed music hall. (Yes, some people in LA actually do walk). The people I know who worked in the entertainment industry have been cameramen, animators, caterers and accountants, not bleached-blonde celebrities or actor wanna-bes.

October 17, 2007 6:41 PM  
Blogger Mouse said...

We here at Classical Geek Theatre agree with the sentiments of the post!

LA is only a crappy place to be if you haven't found your niche.

October 17, 2007 9:47 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Everybody I know has an obligatory nervous breakdown when they move to LA. Which might be explained by the fact that your home town might care about you, but LA doesn't. You've demystified the whole process so poetically.

October 17, 2007 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Tuffie said...

In L.A., you can pluck your chin hair in your car's rearview mirror at a stop light (I saw it done) and no one cares (I certainly didn't, you got a stray hair, by all means, remove it my friend). It's beautiful. I just moved to NYC a couple months ago and the same creed definitely does not apply here.

October 17, 2007 10:21 PM  
Blogger Jim Chadwick said...

Great post. I lived in and around L.A. (Thousand Oaks, Malibu, Sherman Oaks, Tarzana) for a little over ten years. Moved from the east coast for a job and to recover from a life crisis. My wife and I moved from L.A. to San Diego back in 03 because of a job offer. Honestly, we were kind of tired of it at the time because of all the status seekers. (Monster SUVs, everyone and their brother talking about their movie deal, etc.) And the traffic, of course, which was a constant source of stress and misery. But now we miss L.A. . I have to say that despite its flaws (which you've outlined perfectly), it feels more like home than any place I've lived. San Diego is entirely too comformist. If I had a decent job offer, I'd go back to L.A. in a heartbeat. Thanks for writing this.

October 17, 2007 10:59 PM  
Blogger chimatli said...

I think you're experience relates more to West LA and Hollywood.
In the real Los Angeles, there are neighborhoods full of history, community and camaraderie. If you move here for a year to "make it" and hang out with a bunch of other people who want to be successful/famous/discovered, you'll no doubt be surrounded by other transplants who ooze vapidness and apathy.
For the rest of us, the city is full of rich friendships, relationships and a sense of humanity. Strangers in Los Angeles have helped me when my car's been broken down, when I've been sad, celebrated and danced with me in the streets...You just have to make yourself open to the experiences and get out of your insular, homogeneous bubbles.

October 17, 2007 11:07 PM  
Blogger chimatli said...

oops, apologies for the bad grammar!

October 17, 2007 11:08 PM  
Anonymous jaced.com said...

Greetings from San Pedro, the heart of the Los Angeles Harbor. Good read!

October 18, 2007 1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

awe, this article forgot to mention that los angles is the american lie - "the land of opportunity." the truth is that los angeles has taken that lie and twisted it to make it real, almost too real.

October 18, 2007 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

perfect. for this, i would give you my stolen handicap placard.

October 18, 2007 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that sounds horrible. Parking lots and not mattering to anyone. Ick!

October 18, 2007 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Pretty Lush said...

This is one of the best, most authentic articles I've ever read about the best city in the world.

October 18, 2007 3:04 PM  
Blogger homesteady said...

that's about it. another great summation comes from 1946 [!!] and is engraved in Pershing Square [a bizaare place in it's own right]:

"My feeling about this weirdly inflated village in which I had come to make my home (haunted by memories of a boyhood spent in the beautiful mountain parks, the timberline country, of northwestern Colorado), suddently changed after I had lived in Los Angeles for seven long years of exile. I have never been able to discover any apparent reason for this swift and startling conversion, but I do associate it with a particular occasion. I had spent an extremely active evening in Hollywood and had been deposited toward morning, by some kind sould, in a room at the Biltmore Hotel. Emerging next day from the hotel into the painfully bright sunlight, I started the rocky pilgrimage through Pershing Square to my office in a state of miserable decrepitude. In front of the hotel newsboys were shouting the headlines of the hour: an awful trunk-murder had just been commited; Aimee Semple McPherson had once again stood the town on its ear by some spectacular caper; a University of Southern California football star had been caught robbing a bank; a love-mart had been discovered in the Los Feliz Hills; a motion-picture producer had just wired the Egyptian government a fancy offer for permission to illuminate the pyramids to advertise a forthcoming production; and, in the intervals between these revelations, there was news about another prophet, fresh from the desert, who had predicted the doom of the city, a prediction for which I was morbidly grateful. In the center of the park, a little self-conscious of my evening clothes, I stopped to watch a typical Pershing Square divertissement: an aged and frowsy blonde, skirts held high above her knees, cheered by a crowd of grimacing and leering old goats, was singing a gospel hymn as she danced gaily around the fountain. Then it suddently occured to me that, in all the world, there neither was nor would ever be another place like this City of the Angels. here the American people were erupting, like lava from a volcano; here, indeed, was the place for ma - a ringside seat at the circus."

Carey McWilliams

so little has changed- least of all the frowsy blondes!

but there's another city here, too. I live in Los Angeles proper, but on a dirt road. we go to bed to mariachis and coyotes howling and wake up to roosters. I wouldn't last here without this incongruous patch of rural life:

wideruins.blogspot.com

October 18, 2007 6:29 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

I just moved to this amazing city..i couldn't imagine myself anywhere else!..Great article!

October 18, 2007 7:02 PM  
Blogger mel said...

I loved this post, and sent it to several people I know. But, one thing I gotta say is where the hell are you people? I mean I'm in LA proper, and I don't see any freakin' parking lots, there is hardly any parking anywhere I go! I'm on the street, parking blocks and blocks away! Where are these magical parking lots?! Hahah thanks

October 18, 2007 8:02 PM  
Blogger Joules *Dances with Haddock* Taylor said...

It doesn't need to be made human. It's better than that.


No it isn't. It's America. Do you really think the other 75% of us really care?

October 18, 2007 11:14 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

No it isn't. It's America. Do you really think the other 75% of us really care?

The other 75% of what? Waitrose shoppers? What are you talking about?

October 18, 2007 11:55 PM  
Blogger John Hupp said...

I'm originally from suburban Chicago and currently at USC studying architecture. The final project last semester was all about Los Angeles, and so we read the obligatory Joan Didion, Sam Shepard, Walter Mosley... I remember specifically Shepard's short story "Homage to Céline," where everything and everyone is not from Los Angeles.

Of course, I don't think that's true anymore. What's fascinating about Los Angeles are the native Angelenos who are adamant and closed-minded about their own construct of the city. Consider Metro: nobody takes it (except the people that do). Or Downtown: nobody lives there (except the people that do).

The people who don't conform to the mythos of Los Angeles as a place of endless freeways and disconnection are not the Didion protagonists. We are the people who are truly uninhibited. Or, perhaps, we outsiders of Los Angeles impose our own sense of place as a giant Fuck You to all the pathetic, amusing stereotypes.

The ironic beauty of this city is that it owns it natives, only liberating those already free from Los Angeles itself. If we the outsiders stay here, our next generation become the blinded Angelenos, bound by society and, really, not free at all.

I think I have a nice, condescending view of things. But that's the point, and the competition isn't exactly lacking in their own prejudices.

October 19, 2007 2:14 AM  
Anonymous lucindamichele said...

This was a great piece of prose, and very insightful.

I grew up here, and feel like the city is a blood sibling: I love it with every molecule of me, and yet we have violent disagreements on occasion.

Your observation of the city's impassiveness in the face of our humanity and our search for meaning is a good one. I do believe it frees us to do more, be more, grow less fettered. But also, it makes us appreciate our connections to other *that* much more.

The community I've found here--after years of fruitless searching--is now my adopted family, my tribe, are my soul mates. We come through for one another through impossible odds, inspire one another to heights of creativity we couldn't have ascended alone. And it's not just these close friends; there is great kindness here from strangers. There is a palpable, humble warmth and love everywhere. I don't know about some of the other Angelenos, but I know I feel it all over the city.

Perhaps, in feeling so alone within this "city of quartz," we reach out to one another, and the connections we make--whether they are for a lifetime or just a moment--are that much sweeter as a result of our loneliness. We come to expect not to be met with kindness, and so when we are, it's so precious, a revelation of everything we all share.

October 19, 2007 2:15 AM  
Blogger lucindamichele said...

"What's fascinating about Los Angeles are the native Angelenos who are adamant and closed-minded about their own construct of the city...The ironic beauty of this city is that it owns it natives, only liberating those already free from Los Angeles itself." sorry John, not all the natives are closed-minded. :)

October 19, 2007 2:18 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Were you born here? I was, and sorry, but I call shenanigans.
It may be the way you say on the West Side. On the East Side, where the majority of people live, there is a LOT of love. People DID come here for the Sisyphean deal; 'let me roll the rock and I'll roll it a loooong way'. THAT's what they love- that compact with your own ambition. Otherwise, people relate to each other as well as they do in Tokyo or Kansas. Why cast aspersions on our interpersonal relationships?
Los Angeles is great because it doesn't care who yer mom or dad was. Can you do what you say you can? Web designers from Oaxaca want to be the next Walt Disney. Some kid from Canada has a nice voice? Give him a guitar, let's put on a show. It's not braggin' if it's true, the old men used to say.

I was going to print this out and put it on my classroom wall...but you've got some homework to do, first, Mister. Leave Brentwood. Come to Montebello.

October 19, 2007 2:41 AM  
Blogger Militant Angeleno said...

This post sounds like it was written by they typical white transplant who came here to escape their dysfunctional upbringing, yet blames anything and everything Los Angeles for their failings. Funny how you seem oblivious to the multicultural aspect of the city...or maybe people of color are simply invisible to you. This native Militant Angeleno does care about you. Cares about you so much, he thinks that for your own good, you should just go back to where you came from.

October 19, 2007 3:49 AM  
Blogger Militant Angeleno said...

lucindamichele: The transplants are the most closed-minded ones. Just mention food to, say a NYC transy and it all comes out...

October 19, 2007 3:51 AM  
Anonymous emptystudios said...

I realize that I’m a little late to the party, but...this is without question your most engaging, entertaining, and visually evocative essay yet. Refreshing, confident, transparently personal—it almost makes the act of proffering a difference of opinion seem somehow profane. Almost. However—much like the well-designed façades of LA’s terminally-flawed MTA—your tour de force description of the tour de farce options afforded “average” Angelenos didn’t quite make it to the end of the line. I will give you this: LA is everything and nothing to everyone and no one, and the liberating implications of such an apparently limitless tabula rasa are not without merit. But in highlighting the grapes of opportunity ripe for those so inclined to seize them, you gloss over the fact that the city was—and continues to be—predominantly bottled by those wrathful enough to squeeze them. From Mulholland to Mann’s, Disney to Dreamworks, Spago to Spade, LA proper is essentially a man-made mirage masquerading as a mecca. You peg it as emotionally honest, and when viewed through the microscope of your wonderfully described crosswalk encounters, I’m sure that it is. But as others have alluded, a curbside wait is just as likely to invoke a dismissive up/down from someone who deems you nothing more than a downtown Dalit as it is to elicit a non-judgmental nod of ambivalent affirmation. Perfectly fine if you’re comfortable in your own 300 pound, silicon enhanced, Carcass rocking, Christian science fiction reading skin. But as much as both of us undoubtedly wish it were otherwise, I have a feeling that the prevalence of such unselfconscious characters is matched—if not exceeded—by those whose self-worth is intrinsically tied to their possessions, persona, and place in the fame food chain. And in a car-centric city fueled by the globally influential, yet culturally risible, resource of transient, box office-beholden imagination—where almost every waiter, bartender, or valet is a living embodiment of a disillusioned dream, and where countless others hope merely to avoind an ICE-related knock at the door—I find it difficult to equate such endemic social and economic disparity with your utopian 2.0 vision of self-determined individualism. More importantly, I take issue with the largely superficial advantages you draw from living in a city possessing all the depth, detail, and permanence of an ersatz urban Etch-a-Sketch. You see an uncaring, unencumbered void—I see a Sims-like, vapid vacuum. And assuming that your interpretation of LA’s laissez faire interpersonal dynamics is accurate, isn’t it also possible that its denizens’ eccentric attributes are, at their root, self-centeredly onanistic? Or, as an LA-observing Newton might say: For every rebel, there is an equal and opposite cause. And without said cause—be it vaguely militarized or otherwise—isn’t the invigorating societal impact of one’s rebelliousness weakened in response? I’m not suggesting that iconoclastic creativity can’t exist in such a vacuum, only that there might be a causal explanation for the following: NYC gave us Rent; San Francisco was the setting for Tales of the City; LA inspired 90210, Melrose Place, and the porn industry. But having said all that, I would just like to add that your “reptilian skin” description of a giggling, grocery-laden Cameron Diaz is a cherished mental image that I will take with me to my grave. And for that—and all the other interesting insights your prolific posts have unfailingly offered—I remain humbly and eternally grateful. Keep ‘em coming, my friend, and I’ll let you climb my cubicle walls whenever you want...

October 19, 2007 5:24 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

how you seem oblivious to the multicultural aspect of the city...or maybe people of color are simply invisible to you

Sorry, militant angeleno, but do you want to point out to me exactly where in this post I demonstrate what you see as some sort of seething whites-only racism? Or does pretending toward an attitude of fake outrage simply fulfill your bullshit self-identity when it comes to commenting on other people's blogs?

yet blames anything and everything Los Angeles for their failings

Oh, that's right, you didn't read the post! Oops. If you did, you would have seen that Los Angeles isn't "blamed" for anything.

Thanks for the comment, anyway. How's life inside your little hall of mirrors?

just go back to where you came from

Thanks, xenophobe! Why don't you go burn crosses in strangers' yards, too...

October 19, 2007 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved to Boston two years ago from Brentwood...and reading this made me homesick...

October 19, 2007 11:14 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Anon (@ 02:24:00 AM, Oct 19), you write: "You see an uncaring, unencumbered void—I see a Sims-like, vapid vacuum."

And I can't argue with that! So I won't try.

I think, though, that beneath all of this is my sense that Los Angeles is not best compared to, say, Rome, but to the Grand Canyon or to the Salt Flats of Utah: some people like it out there - while other people find it depressingly empty and emotionally unfulfilling.

Call it emotional geology, perhaps...

Anyway, as you say, I'll continue climbing your cubicle walls.

October 19, 2007 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff,
Thank you for your article. I think it expresses Los Angeles well. I've had a hard time convincing my siblings back in NYC what it is about LA that makes it so special. It's hard to identify with a city that has no identity. We know what New York is, we know what Chicago is. I for one get annoyed by San Francisco. A wonderful city if the people can get over not being a city like LA or NYC. SF is great in its own way, but I always get the cold shoulder when I say I'm visiting from LA.

October 19, 2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger Bess said...

Oh dear. I've never been to LA, but I love this description. It's like the same reason (forgive me) that I sometimes I reject the personality-ridden local hotspots in favor of getting coffee and pie at Perkins. Because Perkins is the void.

October 19, 2007 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, you are wrong -- SF actually does really suck.

October 19, 2007 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just moved away from LA(lived in Los Angeles County for the first 26 years of my life). Unless you are star struck, live over paying for everything, and you're a criminal, LA sucks. Its a dirty city. The people are not friendly. Yeah, everyone loves the weather until the next big earthquake hits.

October 19, 2007 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Paris said...

I moved from Paris to Los Angeles for two years.

The first thing that surprised me is how ugly Los Angeles was. I thought it was supposed to be some type of American utopia.

It was absolutely dreadful.

Horrid traffic, bad architecture, everything looked so 1990s. Just a sleazy overgrown strip mall. The weather was great but everybody seemed so unsophisticated and downright dumb.

Everything you're saying about Los Angeles can be found in other city. You can surely be yourself in any other city. Some of you need to travel more.

The ONLY city I enjoyed in the United States was New York - absolutely fantastic.

Chicago was just OK too but it seemed to be suffering from some sort of identity crisis.

October 20, 2007 12:10 AM  
Blogger Gus said...

Your opinion is correct.

October 20, 2007 10:03 PM  
Blogger Priya said...

my god, I LOVED this post. Living in LA is like being inducted into the Fight Club: you are not your khakis, you're not your art, you're not your celebrity sightings, you're Nothing; you're Free.

October 20, 2007 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I think what Militant Angelino is getting at is that this whole post talks about a solitary free existence, in a vacuum. It is a little colonialist. Come to Los Angeles and project yourself onto a blank slate (but don't mind East LA, or Chinatown). I think the chicano experience of Los Angeles is very different. Everywhere you look you see home, you see people just like you, and street names in your language. You're not "free" of those ties, nor would you want to be, you are surrounded by meaningful sights, sounds, and smells. This of course automatically involves you in a deeper political struggle: Of being a second class citizen in a place that belongs to you.

Of course I experience both sides. My dad is as white as they come and my mom is an upper-class South American. So when I lived in LA I could hobnob in the trendy clubs and parties of the west side, or I could navigate the osterias of Echo Park and East LA. That is admittedly a luxury. Both my college boy "Saw Blade Runner too many times" side, and my "Half the people in this town are my cousin" Ecuadorian side respond to LA.

One last point, after living in London for 4 years you'd be surprised how similar those city's are for very different reasons. London is chaotic because it is so old that it was never planned, and LA is chaotic because it is so new that it was never planned. But both are spread out, have a downtown that serves as a center of capital only, and in both cities the classes are on display. In London and in LA you know exactly where you fit in in the socio-economic ladder. You can be a hipster with a beat up vintage car, or a city boy with a $3,000 dollar suit, but you know who's got more and who's got less by the price tag on their shoes. The last similarity I saw was that a single street could separate the haves from the have nots, and you always found the hungry for more over stretching their incomes to rent 300 sq ft. in that tony postcode address.

-Marcotico

October 22, 2007 12:02 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

It is a little colonialist.

And yet you say that this is "a place that belongs to you."

Do me a favor and explain how your claiming southern California for yourself is less offensive than my saying that southern California has become an emotional void.

At what point in history did you come into ownership of this area, and why should your own colonialist claims be recognized? If you can make a good argument, I'll support you. Seriously.

Thanks!

October 22, 2007 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're up. No need to get snippy...seriously... I didn't say it belonged to me, I said it belonged to them. Chicanos are a mix of Spanish and native heritage, you know Aztlan and all that. And it belongs to them, by virtue of pre-existing ties to the land. I agree that the Spanish colonialists came and colonized someone else, but as for the people who claim that heritage they were there before the white settlers, and before the middle class midwestern boosters.
And I don't see why that should upset you seeing as how you write about how nobody (white and middle class) cares about whether its there or not. Like the city is just a playground for the residents' imaginations. "Do something interesting" Well I'm just pointing out that there is a marginalized portion of the citizenry who care very much about the city and its form, and its other residents. They don't feel the need to do anything more interesting than just be.

By the way I really liked your writing and I totally agree with your take, because I am white middle class colonialist myself.

October 22, 2007 12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact...I was laughing a little when I was reading it, because I plan on moving back to LA after grad school (lived there from 96-2000). I was trying to describe why to a OC New York transplant, and I was quoting the statue in Pershing Square "front row seat at the circus", and how LA is the edge of the future, and she just shook her head and said "you've seen Blade Runner too many times".

Mind you I'm still going.

October 22, 2007 12:57 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Fair enough.

Thanks for replying!

October 22, 2007 12:57 AM  
Blogger Pachuco 3000 said...

Finally someone gets L.A.
We don't care.
You all came here to be someone else, and us natives always think "dang, another hillbilly thinking he's going to be the next tom cruise. F*$% e'm, welcome to Los."

October 22, 2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

This is the ONLY thing I have ever read, heard, or seen about LA that has made me actually want to visit there. Ever. Way to go.

October 22, 2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger Alisa Rivera said...

Brilliant. Perfect. Absolutely right on.

Well I'm just pointing out that there is a marginalized portion of the citizenry who care very much about the city and its form, and its other residents. They don't feel the need to do anything more interesting than just be.

But even within that marginalized portion there are an incredible numbers of subcultures. You have the black Harley clubs in Watts, the lowriders in East LA, the Mexican punk kids, just to name a few. The idea that there's this amorphous group of brown people with no ambitions and no diversity within the group is... well... colonialist and more than a little bigoted. Even cholos have dreams.

October 23, 2007 4:10 PM  
Blogger Starshine said...

I live in LA, and your description of it is perfect...and it makes me feel not so bad about the fact that all I've done today is go to the gym and read a book...and it is not 12:16pm.!!!

October 24, 2007 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lived in LA county all my life (24 years), but living in proper LA for over a year now. Currently applying to grad school, which for some people is a great chance to live somewhere different, but guess where the 3 schools I am applying to are located? I just can't leave, I love my LA. This post is spot on with just being free, I think everyone has their LA. I dig New York, but can you really have your New York? I'm not so sure, New York seems like a fucking machine to me sometimes

whatever people do have against Los Angeles, I really don't care.

October 24, 2007 4:55 PM  
Blogger Brady Westwater said...

Just saw Marcotico's post on how alike London and Los Angeles are - and if you combine that with your post - then you get a true sense of LA - with one correction.

It's not that the people of Los Angeles don't about each other - it's that they don't care about what you do - or how you conduct your life. That's the true huge and crucial difference.

LA is unique not because it has no center, but that - like London - it has so many centers. There is so much to choose from it can be overwhelming and intimdating.

It's not a concidence that each city developed from a multitude of villages/towns of single family houses and that each city is a mixture of the urban and suburban development within blocks of each other throughout.

That is partly why both cities not only have a mix of cultures throughout them, but that the people in those communites and cultures tend to mix and match who they are - far more than happens in either New York or Paris.

That's partly why people in both LA and London 'don't care who you are' even though, IMHO, they do care about each other in each cities.

October 24, 2007 5:16 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Great post on LA and excellent comments. I'm a native, lived here the whole time, except for four years in Tucson for college. My business takes me to New York and London regularly.

I actually learned more about my home from the contrast with Tucson than I have from NY and London. Take away the beach, Hollywood and all the urban studies archi-porn analysis... and this place is still a desert like Tucson. And what nobody here has pointed out is that virtually everything you see in Los Angeles popped up in the fifty years after WWII. In the desert, plants are stronger, because they may not have water for months. So when rains come along, the flowers burst out of the ground with the excitable colors of a French whore.

There will always be an unlimited supply of moths drawn to LA's flame--people who come here for the wrong reasons and are disappointed. It's a good thing, because otherwise, someday my kids might otherwise have to work retail.

I pity my friends who grew up in New York. They're bored, jaded and exist in an exquisitely ironic state: they feel like they know it all, but they're almost as provincial as country bumpkins. Diversity in New York? Really? I guess there are different kinds of rich people in New York-those who pretend they're richer than they are and those who pretend they're not. But I see New York as a museum... all of the diversity there has been cataloged and mass produced. Those who are hung up on the [stucco] architectural sameness of LA... uh, have you been to Europe or NY/Boston/Chicago?

A few years ago, I was eating a burrito at El Pollo Loco when a strange High School-like feeling came over me. Suddenly I realized that the muzak I was listening to was a Spanish language translation of The Smiths' "The Boy with The Thorn in His Side."

I live in Eagle Rock, where there's a staggeringly strong car culture of low riders, hot rods and customized cars. One guy on my street, who has a hot rod and a lowrider, wears a big cholo beard and carries a parrot on his shoulder while working on his car. A New Yorker or Londoner would see this guy and say, "fascinating." But what's really fascinating is that he's an animator for Walt Disney and his wife, who can look like a Lowrider Magazine covergirl, is a special ed teacher. LA defies your expectations.

Out in San Gabriel, the LA TIMES reported on and my wife and I had to exploit what they're calling the Massage Wars. Along one street of brand new, totally hideous minimalls, intense competition among foot massage parlors has led to the $10 one hour foot massage. But peer a bit closer in to those ugly minimalls and you'll see the second and third generations of Chinese American kids are making their mom's noodle shop look like Dwell Magazine. The intensely competitive Chinese make great Americans and I can't wait to see where they take LA in 20 years.

By the way, a few miles Northeast of our little hipster burg, they built the telescopes, rovers and satellites that have mapped our universe [JPL/Pasadena]. A few miles West, they make the animation and family entertainment that teaches western society its values and mores [Burbank]. A few miles due north in Angeles National Forest [if it's not burning] is a vast pine forest. And a few miles south, adjacent to the largest urban park in North America, you can walk along the spot that a ragtag group of Spanish speaking Black former slaves and Mestizos reached the Santa Monica basin and witnessed an uninterrupted field of wildflowers from what is now Echo Park all the way to the sea. [Thanks Mike Davis.]

Yeah, I love this place. LA is my sphinx, my oracle.

October 24, 2007 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every city in America would become just like Los Angeles if it had both the same climate and the entertainment industry. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that your city is somehow intrinsically better.

I do live in LA and I do like it. Every other town always seems niver - when I visit it for 2-3 days - but I know that, right now, anyway, I would never want to live anywhere other than here.

October 24, 2007 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Cashew said...

One thing that was not mentioned by anybody was that Los Angeles is still wild! It has yet to settle in it's ways.

Unlike Paris, Boston, London, New York City, etc., Los Angeles in a moments notice can burn the geography, quake and collapse the infrastructure, flood the streets, and even bring its inhabitants to tear the city apart.

It is wild and insane, and so am I!

October 24, 2007 7:43 PM  
Blogger Lainie said...

I love this. It is exactly what I have been trying to articulate for my 7 years of living here. I love being anonymous in this City, yet creating my own community. Brilliant.

October 24, 2007 7:51 PM  
Blogger julieunplugged said...

As a native Angelino now exiled in Cincinnati, you nailed everything I love about Los Angeles. People here ask me what I miss about LA and I say: the ocean and the freeways. Really. The ocean because It Is. The freeways because they can take you anywhere and everywhere (even if they do it slowly these days).

LA is beautiful and ugly and self-centered and generous.

Thanks for this wonderful description of my life lived there in all its nooks and crannies.

October 24, 2007 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

L.A. is young; a work in progress. It will consider any idea, because it is still learning to be a city.

October 24, 2007 11:13 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I love this post.

I lived in NYC for seven years and just got so tired of everyone taking themselves so seriously. LA has been the perfect antidote. You are right - no one cares. And I love that.

October 24, 2007 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless the ordination of your "three great cities" is 3-2-1, you're completely on crack. L.A and Chicago above New York? What are you smoking? New York is this country's pre-eminent city, it's most important city and is so many light years ahead of L.A. it begs for a new definition of superiority. Those facts are indisputable. I'll give L.A the number 2 spot and that's as far as the list goes. Chicago? I don't think so....

October 25, 2007 12:39 AM  
Anonymous Angie O'Neal said...

LA (my current home) is the exact opposite of where I grew up - a homogenous, rural town of 800 in Illinois. I absolutely relish the ability to do whatever I want, even though I don't take advantage of it nearly as much as I should. I suppose half the luxury is just having the option. Thank you, LA.

October 25, 2007 1:41 AM  
Blogger ray9x said...

Loved this post...

As someone who's been shuffling between LA (born and raised...), SF (work) and San Diego (school), I always get the feeling that LA is amazingly quirky, curious and weird.

I think that "Under the Bridge" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers just gets LA, as does Shepard Fairey (of Obey street-art/t-shirt fame), as do the plethora of world-class hip-hop Djs that inhabit the city.

It's just like SF. NY. Tokyo.
But there's more room.
No hard feelings "bottled up" that make people want to start their own hippie lifestyle and be happy about it.
No need to wait for "critical mass" before you cross the street.
No social pressures, especially after you realize that the girl you had a crush on in high school is doing porn, your best friend that smokes pot every day got into Harvard ("pity points for being in the LAUSD", you sneer) and everyone's stuck in the same traffic. Porn, pot, (a lack of) pedestrians. Welcome.

Oh, and... it ain't LA without the traffic. Some days, you can get from Wilshire to Van Nuys in 10 minutes, when that same route would take about 100 minutes on others.

October 25, 2007 4:16 AM  
Blogger Robbie said...

i completely disagree with mr/mrs anonymous above angie o'neal

New england is filled with a never ending supply of iced hair, popped polo collar, white Reebok, puffy jacket wearing "douche baggery". Whites who think they can eat, speak, act, and more or less be blacks. Assholes who feel the compulsive need to come up with "hip" names for anything they enjoy doing, referring to their place as the "D-spot" or "D-pad" or some other lame-ass useless name. Narcissistic lowlifes always crying about how they grew up in a "ghetto" lifestyle, and had to overcome "great" struggles within everyday life, yet at the same time constantly stating that they are the best at "this" or "that" in their bullshit accents

you're completely on crack. Fuck New York, Fuck 911, Fuck the statue of liberty, and Fuck the east coast. Go watch your MTV and plan out what new "bling" you have to steal to get some std ridden pussy you couldn't get otherwise. Go talk to your vain egotistical jewish neighbor and ask him what Wall Street has to offer

New York has a handful of shit light years ahead of any city to offer and thats it. Go take your pre-eminent indisputable superiority and choke on your mothers cock

October 25, 2007 10:07 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Robbie,

That was a pretty good summary of much of what I despise about the Northeast. L.A. gets bashed for being shallow, mostly because of the glitterati types and their acolytes, but on the whole, I don't think it's half as bad as the Northeast when it comes to an obsession with surface images.

The constant need to look cool, to talk tough, to make people think you're a badass and a "player", lest anyone recognize you for the preening, cowardly, conformist loser that you are is stronger in the Boston-D.C. corridor than it is anywhere else.

Though I'd add that in the NY metro area, Jews have no monopoly among the upper classes when it comes to vain egotism.

October 25, 2007 12:41 PM  
Blogger orpheus said...

>L.A. is the apocalypse: it's you and a bunch of parking lots. No one's going to save you; no one's looking out for you. It's the only city I know where that's the explicit premise of living there – that's the deal you make when you move to L.A.<

This is lovely writing but absurd commentary in the aftermath of the fires. New Orleans is the apocalypse, but I guess a dead black city doesn't rate when you're being poetic about parking lots.

October 31, 2007 1:16 PM  
Blogger limax said...

What about the fact that (per Amer. Lung Assoc. and L.A. City Council)L.A. is the #1 most polluted city in the country and you can't breathe there? That's my problem with it. That beautiful photo on the blog must have been taken on one of the 10 clear days a year... sigh...(cough, cough)

November 04, 2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger David said...

Los Angeles is truly a unique and complicated city. NYC is basically Paris is basically London. Same old, same old sex and the city. But LA! LA is the the last frontier. The capital of the Pacific rim, where third world countries are coming into their own success, and LA is in the middle of all that. Where being white is being a minority and where everyone speaks two or three languages. There's a reason why the ethnic food in LA is leagues ahead in depth and range over what's offered in SF and NYC.

Werner Herzog said it best:

"I believe the city with the most substance in the United States is certainly Los Angeles. And of course, you have to forget about the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, forget about the stretch limos and pyramid energy and all the crazy things here. You will find it's a place where things get done, that has an enormous attraction to real, real talented people. Culture is being produced here, and I'm speaking way beyond Hollywood. Of course, Hollywood creates the collective dreams of humankind at the moment, but 35 minutes from where I live is the JPL mission control center, and I'm there with scientists and mathematicians. Every trend worldwide was created in Southern California -- computers, the free-speech movement, acceptance of gay and lesbian people as a decent and dignified part of our civilization, the skateboarders -- you just name it. Anything that's coming along, with only one exception, and that's Muslim fundamentalism." ---Werner Herzog,

November 10, 2007 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like this post. sounds like la is big, shapeless, energyfull and without limits, and since la-ers accept this, they feel more freely morphable, and way less hindered by cultural limits, in la, do whatever you love, and no ones gonna disrespect you for it. Some people who prefer other cities more might need more shape, and stricter cultures to feel peace, they might like structure, and conforming in order to feel like part of something. like herzog said la is the opposite of muslim fundamentalism. sounds like la is analogous to a big pile of fragrant cow shit, warm, filled with a huge multitude of excellent nutrients and energies, stinking in many ways, but somehow in a nice way.

November 11, 2007 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always believed that the most powerful city in the world when it comes to cultural influence was Los Angeles. The other so-called capitals of culture simply consume it or are arbiters of consumption, but LA is about cultural invention.

November 11, 2007 12:58 PM  
Anonymous rococohobo said...

I so rarely find myself in a position to offer good advice that I feel I must seize this opportunity, even if no one is paying any more attention to this long, worn-out thread.

As a big fan of your work, I read with sympathy of your need to move to follow a job in San Francisco. But the good news is that the Bay is, in its own way, a very magical place, and you are still in the realm of California's other truly amazing city. It just ain't San Francisco. If you must work in S.F., so be it, but for the love of God, don't live there. You will be bored and annoyed, I guarantee.

While this discussion has ranged to numerous other far-flung locales (NYC, Paris, Rome, etc.) it hasn't once mentioned the city just across the narrow bay from San Francisco. This isn't surprising. And of course, if you associate with SFers, you will never hear a word about Oakland, except for the standard, regurgitated caricatures which convey nothing but the dread San Franciscans feel towards non-rich people (I will be generous and discount the possibility of any latent racism).

I will concede that San Fran is very pretty. But, like Manhattan, it is now less a city than an overpriced lifestyle boutique, basking in the ever-diminishing afterglow of its long-gone interesting era. Oakland, on the other hand, is kind of like L.A.'s troubled little sister. It is an unpredictable zone, where you can always find a surprising juxtaposition of every imaginable kind of person (statistically, it is the second most ethnically diverse city in the nation), of beauty and ugliness, of joy and creativity perpetrated in the face of great hardship and looming catastrophe. The ethos is similar to L.A.'s, but with a more intimate, expressly friendly twist. People don't know or care who you are, or if they ever see you again, but if you don't seem to be in a hurry, they will gladly divulge their life story to you and converse in depth about the state of global politics. There is a bit more uniformity, but unlike the East Coast, where everyone is held in lock-step by a general worship of fashion, money, contrived macho bravado, and rigid notions of normalcy, the cultural glue of Oakland is a shared belief in progressive values, especially a commitment to equal rights for all human beings.

It remains a place where all kinds of people can choose to exist; the privileged young professionals of San Francisco never think about their town's overwhelming homogeneity, but whoomp, there it is. You are always within sight of the hills and the bay and faded art deco buildings, but between these idyllic margins, you can wander through all sorts of bizarre industrial ruins and dilapidated bungalow neighborhoods where all the senior citizens, disabled people, parolees, working-class folk, and uncompromising artists who can no longer afford to set foot in San Fran go about their daily lives doing their best to be interesting in whatever small, uncelebrated ways they possibly can.

Is Oakland dangerous? Statistically, yeah. Maybe I was just lucky (though I'm generally very unlucky), and never had any problems, just a constant procession of fascinating encounters with often disadvantaged, frequently high, always thoughtful and imaginative individuals. Still, interestingness and a chance of danger do seem to go hand in hand. Post-Giuliani New York is certainly safer than the New York that gave rise to all the cultural artifacts that New York continues to boast about, but it is now a lame, sterile, semi-Signaporean police state. Even "Rent" was the product of a considerably different New York, though, with all due respect to the coked-up boastful New Yorkers who have already posted, I must opine that "Rent" also sucks pretty hard.

At any rate, there are various conventionally "nice" neighborhoods in Oakland, which are still more diverse and cheaper than the most squallid tenements in the West Bay. You could live quite safely and comfortably in such a neighborhood, while remaining physically close to all the other worlds Oakland has to offer. From a more altruistic standpoint, you could live there and contribute, through your taxes and daily economic activity, to the well-being of the whole complex, beautiful, often tragic organism, which really lacks nothing but money. In contrast, S.F. has vast reservoirs of money, but lacks the soul, creativity, or passion to do much of anything with it.

I know we're coming from different places--I'm a working-class individual who moved up from the outer fringes of the greater L.A. galaxy (Riverside, to be precise) with no hope of a job, and wasted a good deal of time and money before finding my own, complicated heaven in Oaktown. Still, given our apparently similar sensiblities, I think that you, too, would do well to ditch the elegant dollhouse for the messier, more colorful, and more real city across the bridge.

November 12, 2007 12:20 AM  
Blogger J said...

I lived in both LA and SF. I was not even aware of the LA and SF rivalry until I moved up to SF. Most people in LA don't care.

Great post!

November 14, 2007 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love being invisible. It doesn't matter what you are escaping from... lost love, lost identity, lost respectability, or even lost sanity... LA doesn't care...
No one looks at you or examines you, because they only care about themselves. To escape you can go live with the animals in the Rain Forest or you can go to LA. I prefer LA, the food is much better.

November 16, 2007 3:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great commentary. This is the void, the edge of the pacific- the end of American Destiny.
I once overheard someone saying LA is nothing but stripmalls laced together - I got angry at first but silently agreed

and p.s. Pasadena does count. Bienvenidos to the LA Basin...
ignore the zip codes and pay attention to the back roads. Stripmalls laced together...

November 28, 2007 6:06 AM  
Anonymous jess said...

I've lived here for a year and a half - formerly a San Diegan - and your essay articulated everything I've loved and hated about this city. This can be the free-est or loneliest place in the world.

Fantastic post.

December 02, 2007 4:17 AM  
Anonymous lakeslider said...

The reason that nobody cares whether you live or die in L.A. is because they all a bunch of utter bastards from David Geffen down to the pourer at Stir Crazy on Melrose. Most are self absorbed to the point of imbecility, all are deeply shallow. A town of hollow men, callow and callous people - you get a better class of deranged egotist in jail. I prefer a bit of human warmth, a bit of heart.

I enjoyed your blog but it was like cheap Chinese food, tasty but 20 minutes later I felt bad.

December 04, 2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger Matt Rowe said...

That’s why I don’t live there, I guess. Sounds awfully self-centered. Society makes judgments about people all the time and this is often for the good of the society as a whole (the obvious and easy ones become laws). Sadly, the tougher less tangible judgments are just as often used in a way that unfairly satisfies one group over the others, and that is not correct. That is why I don’t live in a commune in Utah either. The best society is one in which these two extremes are in some sort of balance yet constantly evolving in ways that continue to benefit the whole. It is a constant struggle to maintain that balance and evolution and to know what is really best.

When I got sick and my family and home were at great risk, besides family, people came out of the woodwork to help us from my church, my neighborhood, other churches who simply knew friends of ours, and even the hospital. They cared about what I did and what happened to us. I’ll take that any day over seeing Al Pacino in a traffic jam, surfing with Darryl Hannah, or walking down the Hollywood walk of fame. Visiting is enough for me.

January 04, 2008 12:02 PM  
Anonymous hautepocket said...

Lakeslider-I feel it a bit presumptious for you to say that "all" people in LA are 'utter bastards'. Or even "most". I grew up in a small midwestern town (read: 8000 people) and there are 'bastards' everywhere. Of course there are more in LA, its a city of 7 million people. The difference comes, I think, in how one carries themself and whether or not they allow themselves to fall victim to becoming shallow and callous. The city may provide a conducive environment to such personality traits, but I still believe it's nurture, not nature, that breeds the truely shallow people within our society. The moment you blame it on the locale is the moment you shift the blame off of the individual, and that is where I think the true problem begins.

January 11, 2008 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Janiss said...

Wow. I was born and raised in L.A. I've lived here all my life, in spite of several desperate attempts to escape. Your story just explained why I'm stuck here and a fish out of water everywhere else.

January 22, 2008 2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://you-are-here.com/

January 24, 2008 10:37 AM  
Blogger margottt said...

Hello! I just thought I'd extend an invitation to a network of Los Angeles bloggers.. It's a great way to get more readers and find new and interesting blogs: http://labloggers.ning.com/?xgi=5mcqS7g

March 05, 2008 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

L.A. is a dehydrated dreamlike state. After 18 years, it won. It spit me out. I still miss the "do anything" aspect of L.A. I don't miss the soulless people. But that's America now, isn't it? Soulless people who don't care if you live or die.

April 20, 2008 2:34 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

plus LA has the best graffiti in the world its a culture down here and it looks beautiful so enjoy the sun and walk around!

May 18, 2008 3:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually find the most self centered shallow people in L.A. are the people that aren't from L.A.. They're the beautiful people that came from some other state, and have set an artificial deadline for their own success in "the industry". I love LA, as shown above..... But these are the people I can't stand, and I stay away from. I LOVE the mexicans in their cowboy hats, the cholos, the chinese old man with a traditional hat on carrying garbage down the street balancing two bags on the ends of a stick mounted over his shoulder, etc etc. There's JPL, there's the music industry, there's car design, architecture, video game design, etc etc... Unfortunately, all the other industries get overlooked. Those shallow hollywood people never last. And then they post how much LA sucked for them..... Maybe in LA, you have to find a real job like everywhere else. Is that such a crime?

June 19, 2008 2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am coming in late to the party on this post. But, I had to leave a comment because your essay really pulled at my heart strings. I was born in Culver City and grew up in Northridge, until I was twelve and my father moved the family to Wisconsin. I was absolutely heartbroken. Growing up in LA did feel like freedom. It wasn't constraining to live in the Valley because growing up in LA gives you the sense of possibility. There is so much to explore. LA is HUGE and varied. Wisconsin was like suffocating. I used to cry whenever "Californiacation" by Red Hot Chili Peppers song came on. I am now thirty and living in Chicago. But I'm sick of my job here; something is stirred inside me. I think LA is calling to me to come home.

June 27, 2008 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

last poster here. it was "Under the Bridge" that made me cry. Not Californiacation.

June 27, 2008 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in the heart of Los Angeles and moved to the west side around middle school. I never really thought about LA until I left for college in Oregon. I love Oregon and the people here are amazing and nice and truly wonderful... but I've come to the conclusion that there really is no city quite like LA. With the exception of NY and Chicago, there is no other city where I can find a Chinese, Etheopian, Korean, Mexican, Italian, Persian and Greek food all within a 4 block radius. The truth is, there is no place on this earth with more diversity than LA and that alone makes it one of the best cities in the world. I've also realized this; people who are from LA are different people than those who move to Los Angeles. People have this perception of LA as Hollywood, when Hollywood is a very small portion of a large city. In fact, in my 18 years of living there, I can say that I visited Hollywood maybe twice a year. People who come to LA are usually expecting something great... but people who were born there already know how great it is.

July 10, 2008 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've lived in L.A. my whole life (I'm 26) and find that this description is good but superficial. Have you ever been east of the 110 freeway or south of the 105, or even the 10? These areas don't tell you "you are free", if anything they make L.A. a hell hole. What IS amazing about L.A. is that you can move 10 miles from almost any point in any direction and end up in a different world. I've lived in 5 different parts of L.A. and each time I've done so I've learned something new about this city. I admire your post, but have to say that it doesn't quite apply to natives or anyone who has lived on the east side of the city. Keep up the good work.

September 02, 2008 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome post.

I love LA for everything that is great and everything that is so terribly wrong. It's an amazing place

September 08, 2008 1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"People have this perception of LA as Hollywood, when Hollywood is a very small portion of a large city. In fact, in my 18 years of living there, I can say that I visited Hollywood maybe twice a year. People who come to LA are usually expecting something great... but people who were born there already know how great it is."

THANK YOU.

Los Angeles is more than just name dropping and deprecation in all its forms.

- Fellow Native Angeleno...

October 14, 2008 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Cristian said...

I'm a native Angeleno, and it wasn't until I left for college in the S.F. Bay Area that I first became aware of how FOLKS ELSEWHERE perceive my hometown.

I have to admit, I learned, in explicit detail (the likes of which could only have surfaced after long and intensive meditation, reflection, and thought from my 'teachers'), what the drawbacks to Los Angeles are. You know how those S.F. folks can be.

But I also found it amusingly ironic that most of those drawbacks- the fakes, the bimbos, the sports cars, the scammers, the name-droppers, the rhinoplasties, the shiny, the soul-less, the HEY LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME's- are imports that FOLKS ELSEWHERE brought with them when they moved here!

Ok, so I guess I could see how it might have felt icky for FOLKS ELSEWHERE when they visited L.A. that first time. They probably weren't expecting to be walking into a big game of Sock-o, full of players that found out the hard way that a great face doesn't get u made into a 'star', or even pay the rent.

What I didn't understand is why the detractors were so butt-hurt, when all that happened was everyone in a restaurant turned their heads to look at them when they walked in, then quickly turned back when they didn't see something glossy and hot off the press. 'THAT'S what scarred them so ruthlessly?!?!' I would think to myself.

Here's some advice from a native to all L.A. virgins:
The trick to enjoying L.A. is to make sure you don't care about being famous, or worshipped, or gawked at, or discussed or blah blah blarrgh. And silently repeat to yourself until you believe it: 'No one is here to see me or know me; I am here to see and know some fun.' Do that and you'll be fine.

I know it may sound a little goofy, but it's not as bad as letting FOLKS ELSEWHERE make up your mind about L.A. That would be 'hella' goofy!

October 30, 2008 12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basically the way I look at it, human life on planet Earth must be viewed as generally pretty dull. I mean compared to all else that exists in the Universe the experience of a dominant primate like ourselves ranks pretty low in the wow category. Our species is still quite slow in shedding the vestiges of our tailed past in the trees. And despite a few great leaps of our brain (I think the Taniyama Shimura Conjecture ranks as one) human life is more often than not composed of meaningless lives in bleak landscapes. So it is imperative to remember that anywhere on Earth where human life is present we are dealing with a people that is not as advanced as most elites would like to think.
As far as North America goes, and if we are to assume that cities are to be judged by the dynamism of its citizenry and its impact on world history there really is nothing between(or above or below) New York and LA. Those that claim otherwise are fooling themselves. Barring Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and some of the Silicon Valley pioneers, a good chunk of the nations wealth is in NY and LA, With this money brings the type of people and amenities that other cities lack. As a result people outside these two costal outposts tend to be unsightly,lacking in all sense of fashion, in possession of accents and altogether mediocre and unambitious. People in burgs like SF or Austin may contend otherwise and also claim how cool they are, but really outside of Hollywood, cool is just a synonym for poor. In our silly ape like existence what it really comes down to is who will be remembered when they die by more than the obvious friends family and collegues. Most of those who are remembered, who have the front page above or below the fold obits reside in LA or NY.

November 16, 2008 2:32 AM  
Anonymous Blaine Zuver said...

I agree with much of what is said here - but - Political Correctionism is far more insidious in Los Angeles than where I live ,in Miami where it is nonexistent.

I would say that Miami is the most free city in the USA - precisely for the reason that it is just over the line from the USA.We are not subject to the increasing micro-management of daily life - so rampant in the US - and especially in California - the original Nanny State. Why - because most people here are refugees from brutal dictatorships and moved here to be able to make their own decisions on how to run their own lives.

January 27, 2009 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Hey Geoff,

I've been reading your blog forever, and I just found a spot where I linked to this post, back when it was new, so I re-read it.

It made me realize something.

Your blog was better when you were in LA.

With respect and best intentions,
Mike

February 02, 2009 2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello,

if anyone can answer this question, i would really like to hear your answer.
i am thinking of moving to LA but dont know anyone there, but having read this blog, would it be hard to make connections there? would it be easier in another large city?

thanks

February 09, 2009 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - You just unwound all the "i don't fit in" childhood angst of a native angelino with this one. Now I see there's nothing to actually fit into. Freedom!!!

February 17, 2009 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in LA. I've lived here for years, and while I appreciate the spirit (I guess) behind everything you just said, 1. I don't fully understand it. And 2. the whole ‘people not caring’ thing has to literally be the polar opposite from the truth.

The appearance of not caring, which is rabid here, is a physical manifestation of gauging, measuring and passing judgment. Once someone has come to a conclusion about the worth another person offers them, they act accordingly. If that other person offers them nothing, then they ignore them. The most obvious and prevalent way that this shows its head (above and beyond the infinite other ways) is the famous LA question, “what do you do?”. The “what do you do?” question is asked almost immediately upon meeting anyone unless someone is at a function they believe they’re socially above. If the answer doesn’t suit, then conversation goes stale or artificial.

This applies to every type of person you mentioned in your blog, whether it’s the fake-tittied broad in her mustang who no doubt has been deceived by some 2-bit producer type on more than one occasion or the uber-sophisticated cat from Silverlake reading selections from Lord Byron.

Everyone cares. It’s why LA is the capital of celebrity and the reason why TMZ exists. And when Steven Spielberg walks into a room I promise it’s only feigned disinterest that permeates.

March 19, 2009 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LA is a joke, once you realize that you can love it

April 01, 2009 12:37 PM  
Anonymous T said...

i think the comments conveying that posts/ideas like this come from a place of privilege has its merits. how else can one make such astute observations from the ground? those who have never left LA, those who just CAN'T leave LA see a whole other los angeles. but thats okay, i'm pretty much stating an obvious point. im just wondering why u sound a little offended that anyone would find this as remotely classist.
you talk about the ability to define one's LA by what they do. but what they're saying is that you can't really define who you are in this town if you're poor. and thats where they are limited to the "inter-communities" Liliana speaks of.

if you appreciate LA for all its diversity and non-caring tolerance, then you can also readily see that making distinct comparisons, contrasts between cities is something not just for the imaginative but for those who can afford to leave, come back, and articulate an opinion. the privilege we speak of here comes from the ability to create a physical distance...

i love your post for the dialogue that its created and appreciate your good efforts towards the impossible---to put LA into words! thank you :)

April 06, 2009 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOVE this blog entry. (Am dismayed by the image of Cameron Diaz giggling through a mask of reptilian skin, though.) I gotta move back to Los Angeles. Monterey stopped doing it for me a long time ago. Sucks being too broke to move.

May 05, 2009 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Ari Feinstein said...

It seems the city has made you quite the existentialist/nihilist. I come from manhattan, and I visited LA for a while. First of all i left the hotel with a white shirt, came back and it had turned grey from all the disgusting smog lingering around. Secondly, NOTHING gets done there. Thirdly, i didnt see a wrinkle for miles in that city, and everybody there is extremely fit. Its the most superficial city in the world, and yes you can grow a beard and read christian science-fiction, but if you hadnt just come out of the gym or the plastic surgeons office, then your a piece of shit. I personally thank you for making this place seem like the dump it actually is

May 05, 2009 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fun read, and finally: a coherent argument for why LA is the greatest city in the US, and maybe the world. It is, of course, dead wrong (if the author was even serious), but it's wrong for all the right reasons. Rather than falling into the typical cliches of saying there's something here for everyone and mentioning the weather (immediate disqualification), this offers the brilliant insight that you can only truly be yourself in a place where no one cares about you. I found myself asking "Have I misjudged LA? Is what I thought to one of its greatest weaknesses actually its greatest strength?"

There's refreshing honesty here, but you can also be yourself in a remote cabin in Lincoln, Montana. That's not what *I* am looking for in a city; but I do think LA is the most important city in The States. Important in that contained in one place is a good cross-section of everything that's wrong with the country. If we can fix what's wrong here, maybe humanity will actually turn the corner. If we can't, I fear we're doomed.

May 14, 2009 1:38 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

HEY!

I just got back from LA LA ROCKS! Money is the only thing that matters. Now I am disheartened by the unemployment. Yes there are shallow people, LA misses the rich tradition of art like New York City has.
Anyway people are so open minded and have such great sensitivity to humor and love to talk! I think for the USA NY/LA is where it's going on.

June 06, 2009 12:42 AM  
Blogger Lindsey Mysse said...

Whenever someone asks me if I like LA and if they should move here, I send them this article.

LA is not for the faint of heart, or the rich in spirit. But I love it more than any other place on earth.

It's just me and the parking spaces.

June 17, 2009 3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was born and raised in Los Angeles ( we like to call it L LAAAAAAY.. N E WAYS, born in southcentral and raised in East Laaaa.. Been all over the world all the big cities NYC,CHI TOWN. BUT NOTHING IS BETTER THAN L LAAAAAA.. SEE I CAN WRITE ANYWAY I WANT AND NO ONE CARES. I used to take 3 buses just to get to work everyday but i bought a car and now i have to take 3 freeways to get to work. Who cares!!!! i do because i have to spend more money. see im not making sense and nobody cares. Oh and for the transplants. ( cindy from Oklahoma ) you probably never going to be a famous actor but guess what? your friends in Oklahoma won't know that because you can lie. No one cares. Anyways im going to the laker parade tomorrow ..

June 17, 2009 4:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shit yeh!

July 15, 2009 2:13 PM  
Blogger dylan said...

"Literally no one cares, is the answer. No one cares."-if you're not RICH or FAMOUS! Of course, if you're Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Brad Pitt or any other overrated, talentless celebrity, or if you happen to drive a fancy, $100,000 car ans live in Beverly Hills, everyone cares and loves you!

This blog made me sick. You are trying hard to make LA sound like something unique or fun. Why don't you tell it like it is? LA is nothing more than a smoggy, dirty, overcrowded, fugly hellhole, full of greedy, self-important, car-obsessed, image-obsessed, money-obsessed, rude, phony people. Oh yeah, you left out the millions of illegal immigrants everywhere you look, the ones who are resposible for most of the crime and gangs in LA.

And, if it needs to be said again, you can grow a goatee, drive a Mustang or any of the other lame activities you mentioned ANYWHERE IN THE US and I'm sure nobody will bother you!

And you forgot to mention the horrible public transportation system, which is very limited and takes hours to get from point A to point B on. If you like to walk or bike, you're really fucked here. And people will stare at you if you're the only person walking. It's hella annoying.

Stop trying to gloss up LA and tell it like it is! Like Henry Rollins said, "You can put pearls on a pig, but it's still a pig."

PS: You probably wouldn't see Al Pacino driving in LA, because he lives in NEW YORK!

July 23, 2009 7:51 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

That's about it.... a cold indifferent machine. Grew up there, never liked it, and I'm glad I left for Portland, Oregon.

The grand indifference of LA is undeniably impresive, and if YOU don't give a damn, then you can enjoy the fact that it doesn't give a damn either. But the minute you discover your own humanity, it is hard to continue living there....

July 24, 2009 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow dylan, you should get a job at Fox news. You typed out a 5000 word response to a really good article just for the sake of disagreeing. If you don't like being stared at while you walk down the street, or you don't have enough money to feel comfortable among others, then stay out of LA. Nobody cares except you. You're the one making a big deal out of it. Your opinion is worthless. You give the impression of a very jealous person.

Scared of gang violence? Hate illegal immigrants? Don't come to LA. You're missing out on some fucking DELICIOUS authentic Mexican dishes though. And fake tits. That's my shit. I love LA

August 20, 2009 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the above post geared at Dylan... Your post was filled with as much defensiveness as his was "jealousy". Learn to contest a point before you spew.

September 15, 2009 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To everyone who posted positive or negative on this blog...Los Angeles doesn't care. People come here because if you really look for it you can live your life anyway you want. You don't want people to look at you go live in Angeles National forest. Everytime I go up there I see lots of people living up there and it is just a beautifull as any oregon forest. You want glitz go live in Silverlake, your a hop skip and a jump from Hollywood and you can rent a studio for less than $800 bucks. And....there is everything in between...just look for it or stay where you are...Los Angeles doesn't care. See you or not.

October 07, 2009 8:10 PM  
Blogger Echo Park Gypsy said...

I'll agree with this whole article on some level, as repetitive as it was. I would like to point out however on bit of irony I've always found amusing. You're right, people here could give a shit about anybody else, yet their lives revolve around constructing themselves to impress all those nobodies. If you don't care about them, why spend every waking hour trying to make sure they both notice and approve of you? Why go sit at the Intelligentsia driking overpirced coffee as a purpose to see (all these people you don't care about) and been seen (by all these people who don't care about you, yet are hoping you see them and think they're rad)? It's never made any sense to me.
The only things I've ever and will still stand behind in this city is it's proximity to the mountains, desert, beaches and city life all being consumed daily by one another. The people here however, what a waste of human anatomy. The cith has great energy I must admit, it's just a shame it's being wasted on Marc Jacobs handbags being presented nightly at the Geisha House.

October 09, 2009 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Alex S said...

ditto Mike. i grew up here, too, other than a few years on the east coast. but the article is disingenuous -- people in L.A. care...they care A LOT. the indifference is a front for the most insecure city in the world (what's cooler than not giving a shit?). i don't think folks who love it here even know (or maybe they've forgotten) that there are places where people live without a mask on. i wouldn't be here if i didn't have to be. i miss philly.

October 09, 2009 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Los Angeles is North America. Its soul is native. Its spirit is south. It dreams in English. It is a vehicle for every human folly. It stupefies like the messages of Jesus. It seeds itself. It grows buildings. It fossilizes them. It is the poetry of visual aggregation. It is Jazz-age and solemn. It is the nude descending the staircase. It was the first city to exhibit Andy Warhol. Every negative assessment of it is accurate. It is creation-display run amok. It is that difficult work of art you disliked the first time, but returned to it only to discover its perfection. You were all wrong. It was all right. As you get bigger, you come to understand it. Los Angeles is implacable and imperturbable. It’s all a bit flagrant, but it makes every place else unnecessary. Every Place Else was a prelude to It. Los Angeles is a continent and big enough that there‘s a place for you. Stay a while. Your presence gives it its human scale, and when you’re gone, it’s back to its non-human self. There’s a loneliness to it. Many Angelenos wear their hearts on their sleeves. They tend the flame. Many Angelenos will talk. Break out of your encapsulation and engage them. You’ll be surprised what you can find out about them and you. You may not like what you find out. You may find out that you can love Los Angeles. You may be forced to leave it. Your memory will return to it. It is unrepeatable.

October 13, 2009 3:18 PM  
Blogger benjamin said...

Nice post although I don't necessarily agree that being alone and not caring for one another is the M.O. of LA. I can't explain it, but I moved to this city 3 years ago from NYC, a place I could never really feel good in, with a brief stint in SF (same feeling), and I am totally in love. No idea why. I keep trying to read things, or look for something that can explain the feeling. When i'm driving on the freeway, or watching the old houses go by on the eats side, walking down the streets of downtown, i'm the happiest i've ever been and it's not about me, it's the city. or something. Like I said, difficult to explain. P.S. I HATED it when first arrived (ugly! fake! stupid people!)but when I finally let all that preconceived BS go, I realized there's no where better.

November 13, 2009 2:41 PM  
Blogger ----------------------------- said...

The first time I flew into Los Angeles, I saw the scene pictured in your first image and I thought: "apocalypse." That specific word. So in my opinion you are literally dead-on. This is a fantastic post and one of the few blog posts that I re-read.

November 17, 2009 10:22 AM  
Blogger Ludovica said...

I've only spent a few days in LA but I loved it so much. I liked the non-judgemental thing.. where I live nobody cares about anyone either, but its the sport to judge others harshly.
LA is my favourite city in the world

December 05, 2009 2:18 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

I left Los Angeles because I was ashamed of it's dramatizations. Pulling me down, over-dramatic, pressurized til it bursts; riots, drive-by's, police corruption. I grew up with the gang culture and the underground Hip Hop of Los Angeles to escape that violent scenario. And at the same time LA had everything to me that was unattainable; the rich and glitz lavish lifestyles and me who was somehow lost and stuck with my neck pained looking up. So I left for the east to maybe something more concrete, where people had no choice but to care even though they'd be asses about it. And then all of a sudden, 3 years gone, I missed Los Angeles. I visited New York and I lived in DC. These places you can't be alone because everyone is talking to you, everyone is engaged in community. In Los Angeles, you're right, you can be alone and it's okay. It's meditative and peaceful when you want it to be, over the crime, graffiti, and smog, you just have to build your own stilts because once this world is over, I think Heidegger said it best, you'll be alone anyway and Los Angeles prepares you for that.

January 21, 2010 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting blog and comments...

I was someone who grew up in one of the European capitals and, after living in NYC (and all over the US) moved to LA, lived there for 3 years and moved to SF Bay area... I have a lot of love and hate for LA. I don't feel I can quite enjoy SF and don't feel that I really fit in there... (may be because the city I grew up at was much bigger than SF and I get a provincial feel from SF?) I miss LA, want to move back.... and I can't.

I tried to move back and spent 2 weeks in Los Angeles.... I was happy to see familiar places and enjoy going to good nightclubs again (sorry SF clubs suck). However, I couldn't deal with the crime-infested ghetto that the most of LA is (and I lived mostly in ghetto areas during my stay in LA--well being a poor student...) I can't deal with constant crime, shootings and looking over my shoulder.

I can't deal with inhaling air that so full of pollutants that it feels like you drown. LA gave me asthma in 2 years (that gone away after moving to SF area). Even most affluent LA communities have heavily polluted air, and even the communities located by the ocean like the city of Santa Monica (particulate from 405). I came back to LA, stopped at Thai store in San Fernando valley and was terrified by the sight of wornout, wrinkled horrible-looking employees--they looked like withered plants growing on the side of the freeway--such are the effects of living and working by the major roadways, in a valley where pollution gets trapped. TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT AIR.

I can't deal with sitting in traffic forever to get anywhere... I can't deal with sitting in traffic for hours in non-peak hours. (Try to get to Fullerton from Hollywood at any time of the day).

Now I can have a software job in LA that would allow me to live in a nice area... but where would my employer be located? Most likely in another polluted area and I'd spend forever getting there in traffic, breathing poisoned air.
I never went to the oceanside while living in LA, because of traffic and coastal infestation with the wealthy, who tried to privatize all the beaches.

It's not true that in LA no one cares.... people are superficial and DO care about silly material things, yes about status and appearance.

Yes, SF is boring and dead compared to LA. SF Bay area is cold as hell. It's provincial. Nightclubs are boring. LA is sparkly and glittery place compared to it. But I can't go back to LA because I'm tired to fear for my life. Plus, Bay are has awesome nature parks (redwoods), LA parks can't beat that. Whatever my "mytho-poetic" vision of LA is... I can't afford to be murdered or poisoned by pollution in LA. Enough.

May 11, 2010 10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS: I have to agree with the person who said that the blog and some comments in favor of LA were written by/for relatively well-off people.

I lived in various ghettos of LA, being a student with low income, and I can tell you that the horror of it still hurts me--I just hope it'll get washed off and forgotten some day. I was attacked and threatened, harassed, degraded, thrown out of housing, cheated out of my money, and dehumanized. It's not like nobody cares in LA... it's worse, they do care to hurt you--and face it: most of LA (except West LA and few eastern enclaves) is a nasty ghetto where people are trapped in impoverished slave-like existence, breathing horrible air, paying extreme rents, not being able to own housing, wasting precious time of their life on traffic jams and working endless hours for low wages to cover the insane rents.

There's a lot of hostility in LA--no, not indifference, but aggression and violence. Despite LA being extremely multi-cultural city (and may be due to this), there's a lot of racial and nationality-based hatred (if you argue this, the riots never happened, right?) LA's attitude can't be summarized as "I don't care"--the real one is "See my Middle finger". There's also a lot of (justifiable) hatred based on the divide between the poor and rich, these contrasts are really striking in LA.

To me (immigrant), LA is not like North America at all... it's South America, where a lot of people live the 3rd world lifestyle. Sure, the Western parts of LA are very different from the Eastern parts (and there's no subway lines from East to West, exactly to keep the "ghetto people" out of Western part of the city)... but it'd take a lot of money to live completely shielded life in the Western areas, without being exposed to smog, crime, and other bad stuff that is common to LA. To summarize, the anything outside the wealthy areas is horrible and grim-looking, very polluted and crime-ridden. The taste of "indifference" there is more like the taste of the gun barrel shoved into your face.

May 11, 2010 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please post this! Reading the comments here made me realize how deeply I hate Los Angeles, even though I had some of the most fun times of my life there and most productive time as an artist.
Things went downhill when I decided to go back to school full time (software engineering/computer science--hey I have to feed myself!)...
The amounts of student aid are the same in LA and everywhere else, btw, despite difference in rent.

Soon, I had lost my inexpensive housing I had through friends due to my landlady's family situation. Then, the Hell began. I went through over 1.5 years of hell, living off student loans...

I've seen it all: drug addict landlord who takes your rent money and throws you out to sleep on the street, taking your most cherished belongings and documents as well, just to have another naive victim move in and give them money; landlords who demand you sleep with them after you move in; being assaulted by landlord on drugs; immigrant ghetto hostels, filled with violence, alcoholics and prostitutes, or, in the best case, illegal immigrant slave workers; renting housing together with insane, disabled and severely retarded person who was recently released from the state hospital after being locked up for an assault on the previous tenant; 3rd world animals (I can't call them "human") directly from the jungle who thought that theft, lies, deception, violence, unsanitary habits, etc, are all Okay and normal in the US; a person who goes on a rampage and tries to use weapons; illegal sublets (you only learn they're illegal after moving in) where you're harassed by the management and have to enter and leave by jumping over the tall fence; or, a rental "room" in a "house" that had no glass in windows (in winter), filled with filth and rats and human waste.

Due to pressures of no housing and full-time engineering school, I had lost my part time job. The abuse had driven me to the state where I was afraid to rent anything and slept in a car... I also slept in the computer lab at my University. One night I woke up to 3 police officers towering over me. I was thrown out from computer lab by police and told I'd be banned from university campus if I sleep there again. After weeks of this, I found myself living in another ghetto hostel, sleeping on a mattress on the floor among dust and dirt, struggling to complete the bulk of my hardest computer science classes before I lose it or something bad happens to me. After the end of that semester I became delusional and was removed from Los Angeles by my parent and moved to SF Bay area.

Right now I live close to San Jose and visit SF a lot. I'm learning not to fear people and be able to trust and feel peaceful and not expect to be assaulted at any time, like in LA. I hate that city, its not indifferent, it's brutal and inhuman.

May 12, 2010 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And guess what I found out after sharing my housing horror with one of my computer science professors? He lived ON THE STREET WHILE BEING A STUDENT WORKING ON HIS ADVANCED CS DEGREE AT UCLA, before he became a professor. He told me he almost got BURNED ALIVE BECAUSE HE LIVED/CAMPED IN THE HILLS BY UCLA AND DIDN'T KNOW WHEN THE FOREST FIRE STARTED. This is how that city is towards its students (who're not from wealthy American families). This is the horror and ugly face of of it. I don't want to ever see that face again. I want to forget it.

May 12, 2010 12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But you're not going to post it (about housing), blog owner? :]] Cause you only want to post the bubbling of the well to do 'elite' who haven't gotten a taste of real LA (god forbids they do it like I did)

May 12, 2010 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, West LA types can bubble all ya want about how great LA is... till that cholo shoots you dead or pokes your eye out in the dark street, or carjacks, abducts, rapes and murders your sister (yes, I had a person jump into my car in LA trying to knock me out--too bad for them I'm an athlete and happen to always have a tire iron on hand in my car).

May 12, 2010 1:03 AM  
Blogger Lindsey Fyfe said...

I stumbled upon this writing a year or two ago when I was living in LA. I relocated for graduate school and read this every now and again when I am feeling nostalgic for the place.

really well put. thanks.

November 28, 2010 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nailed it.

December 28, 2010 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled on this blog entry feeling nostalgic for LA tonight.

I only lived in the city for a few months a couple years ago but instantly fell in love with the city. It was hard to put in words to others what it felt like living in the city but this is exactly what I remember feeling. FREE. Free to be the me that couldn't exist anywhere else. The city felt as alive or dead as I wanted and every day and night was an adventure. I could drive a few blocks and be in a completely different world and then back again. Anything was possible.

I remember moving away and trying to carry on this liberation I felt down there. The momentum and lust for life lasted a few months but eventually died being out of LA so long. I miss the city. I miss feeling alive like I did. Its like I took a peek into the matrix and saw the truth and then had to turn around. A person can't recover from that.

January 27, 2011 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had our honeymoon in LA and California this summer so forgive me for looking through rose-tinted glasses. I am a Londoner through and through - but I love the freedom, the lack of structure, the almost melancholy attitude to life from almost everyone who lives there. I first visited 10 years ago and loved it - 10 years on I'm still in love with a city that I really know nothing about apart from the memories that will stay with me forever. I know it's a very, very special place to me and to millions of others. It's surprising how people say LA citizens don't care - they care immensely about their city - they just don't feel the need to show off. Like it or loathe it - they don't care what you think about their city (NYC take note) - they just know they love it. And so do I. Lots of love to LA from London! x

February 10, 2011 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love cities. I have lived in London, SF, Hong Kong, I travel around the world frequenty for work but nothing compares to LA. Still deeply in love with LA has to offer after 9 years here: where on earth will you be able to experience 2-3 new restaurants every week and still not running out of options, where you will arrive in a new hood and think, wow, I didn't even know these kind of places existed!

This article nails it. I do not agree you can be whoever you are in Bay Area- you will have a hard time there if you are a conservative republican. But LA? Who cares. I feel so happy every time I got into LAX after a very long trip, because there is no city being more underrated and misunderstood as LA.

June 11, 2011 11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in LA. I can tell you that most people around the country confuse Hollywood with LA. Hollywood is in LA. It's a part of LA. It's not all there is to LA. The superficial, fake, obnoxious people that some of you think of when you hear the letters L-A, is actually Hollywood. Most of those people are transplants that buy into the BS. LA is so much more than that. If you have never been to LA, then you're talking out of your ass. If you lived here awhile and you still think of LA as Hollywood, then you didn't branch out.

I travelled around the country for a job I had a few years ago. I travelled Europe & Asia for a more recent job I had. In all my travels, LA has proven to be unique. If you have a hard time accepting that, then you should go back to wherever you came. We could use the extra space. That especially includes obnoxious New Yorkers with their pseudo toughness.

July 19, 2011 12:06 AM  
Blogger Victor V said...

Fucking love this article!

August 28, 2011 12:49 AM  
Blogger TwilitePrincess said...

Brilliant, beautiful post - you capture the spirit of Los Angeles uniquely.

I split my time between Los Angeles, London and Moscow, and really enjoy each. Of course, LA isn't a city at all in many respects, but it has a distinctive sense of place and state of mind.

Thanks for your always delightful writing. (The BLDGBLOG Book is back on my wish list, as I've given all my copies to friends...)

November 12, 2011 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with everything in this post. L.A. is full of people. Real people. You sound like a bored, rich adolescent who just cruised by the whole thing at high speed in a convertible.
Perhaps you've overlooked that most people in L.A. don't go surfing with Daryl Hannah or even have enough money in their bank account to own any car, let alone a Prius. The medicine in L.A., which you imply has no purpose (as if L.A. was all rich, young, checked out yuppies like you) is inaccurate, to put it politely. Sometimes in L.A. your medicine is for your arthritis, and your medicare isn't kicking in. Sometimes you are a mother of three, who speaks no English, and is going to the CVS for antibiotics for your daughter's strep throat.
The medicine is for real causes, but your writing indicates that you don't realize there are people other than the rich and the young.
Los Angeles in the constellations of human connections that you create. You sound like some kind of lonely tourist with this blog. You're oozing out some totally fabricated, non-existant blatantly stereotypical po-mo narrative about a city filled with lives and narratives, that I've lived in and grown up in for 25 years, and I just couldn't read it without leaving you this note:

Places are what you make of them. Your pseudo-cosmpolitanism is miguided at best, and callously egoistic if I'm going to be honest. Get out there and write about real life.
Let's start with the medications, and the real people who need them.
Stand alongside a CVS pharmacy counter for a day. Observe the people. Observe what happens. Observe anything beyond your own navel. Then, maybe, there's still hope for you to become something of value to L.A. (which is not just a bunch of empty parking lots...can't believe I even have to say that, or that people are even posting complimentary comments about your writing). Wake up world. A city is a constellation of people. An aggregate of humanity, and not of concrete.

November 12, 2011 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the words of Joan Didion:

"[Mariah] walked back to the car and sat for a long while in the parking lot, idling the engine and watching a woman in a muumuu walk out of the Carolina Pines motel and cross the street to a supermarket. The woman walked in small mincing steps and kept raising her hand to shield her eyes from the vacant sunlight. As if in trance Maria watched the woman, for it seemed to her then that she was watching the dead still center of the world, the quintessential intersection of nothing."

December 16, 2011 12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Born and raised. Best blog post ever. Never been so proud to be from L.A.

"And I don't just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversity and so we should celebrate it on that level and be done with it; I mean that Los Angeles is the confrontation with the void. It is the void" - Genius!

December 17, 2011 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Born in the suburban Midwest, I moved to NYC six years ago to go to college (I chose my school because I wanted to live in NYC. If only i'd known about the west coast then!) and have lived there ever since. I'm a musician and I travel a lot. The first time I went to LA, I hated it. Then I became friends with some LA residents (natives and transplants) who were visiting the east coast. I followed them back to Northeast LA for a long visit and seriously contemplated never returning.

I love the attitude, I love the vibe, I love the weather, I love the people, I love the hills and plants, I love the way the smog diffuses the sunlight, I love the food, I love the art, I love the music, I love the buildings. I felt so calm and at home there. People seemed happier, more relaxed about everything, which really nailed home the rigidity and shallowness of the East Coast that I've been tolerating for over a decade. I've never felt happy or comfortable in New York, only reached a point where I could tolerate it. It is too tense and abrasive for me, and I agree with the commenter who said that it has become a pseudo-Singaporean police state. The only reason I came back to New York at all was because I had music commitments to attend to, because I truly felt - once I got to LA - that I could stay there and never look back. It just felt so right. I was two weeks away from moving to LA for good when I was offered a career opportunity that I could not turn down, but would require me to live in New York for another year or so. I'm going to do it, but once this commitment is fulfilled I am packing my bags and never looking back. I think about LA every single day now. It's calling my name.

I'm coming.

January 04, 2012 2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Every day shallow empty people find new reasons to love this hollow city. It's kinda cute, like when two people who seem too stupid to breathe find each other, and everyone just gives a sigh of relief. There really is a special somebody for everyone! With any luck, everyone who wants LA will get it, and all of us who hate it will find our escape, and the world will be perfected.

I grew up there, and if I never set foot in it again it won't be long enough away.

January 04, 2012 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Krista said...

I would say that I have to strongly disagree with this blog. I was born and raised just outside of LA but did ministry in LA for years. You see I always hated the US, always felt like I was supposed to live outside the US as a missionary the rest of my life. But let me tell you the grass is NOT greener on the other side. I have been living in Hong Kong for nearly two and a half years, you want to talk about a place where people don't care about you, it's there. People walk through doors and don't look behind them and just let it slam in your face. People rush to get a seat on the train and will push you out of the way just so they can get a seat. People bump into you on the sidewalk as if you don't even exist or will open their umbrella right in your face, without noticing or even caring. People don't care about you there.

In LA people look out for eachother. Americans are much friendlier even in LA then almost anywhere I have been. I always thought otherwise but after traveling to 32 countries and experiencing many different cultures, Asia, Europe and even Africa....LA is a place that people care. People will talk to you the grocery line or say hi to you, a complete stranger, as you take your dog for a walk. My hushand is German and even in Germany people don't say hi to strange arers(it's odd) but NOT in LA....yes it is a city full of major diversity, people from every nation, yet people are still friendly...people in LA CARE.... People in LA are just are striving to fit in are longing to be important and yes some may be rude at times, but I don't know very many people from LA that don't care about others!! I'm just saying experiencing the world may make you see otherwise.

January 12, 2012 5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You cannot judge a city by its lack of social structure, any more than you can reasonably judge a government by how much anarchy it has. It's because no one cares, as you say, that Los Angeles has been allowed to degenerate into such a politically thieving cesspool of de-budgeted, criminally insane, preying upon innocent people, abandoned to broken roads and streetlights, and to inadequate transit, educational and police/fire systems, among many other things. All this exists to the point where you cannot even ride a bus, without being threatened by some dope addict or maniac, educate your children, resolve a court issue in a reasonable amount of time, etc. As regards the powers that be, they care all too much about maintaining their undeserved riches, at the expense of the Underclass. As an example, the counterproductive egos of the Screen Actors Guild leadership continue to ruin the industry and kick people out of work.

March 07, 2012 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

This articulates perfectly what I've been more awkwardly trying to communicate for years.

I started a web series a year ago with the intention of representing how varied, strange, and, above all - individual - the Los Angeles experience is. I've only done one episode so far but more are forthcoming:

http://vimeo.com/18313224

March 12, 2012 4:48 PM  
Anonymous linka said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I lived in LA for 8 years, leaving about 2 years ago to move to Europe for a Masters program. I also left because, to me, LA represents everything that is wrong with the United States. Mainly, the public transportation issue, or the lack of it. I find it inexcusable that a city of its magnitude has so little structure.

Strangely, I loved LA from the second I arrived and would drive around in my car thinking to myself, "damn I love this city". This occurred atleast on a weekly basis. But, deep in my heart something was tugging at me. It was the belief that a city should be better equipped for its people.

I now live in Berlin, where we have bike paths on every street and the 2nd largest transportation system in the world, as well as no open container laws and no curfew. I found my personal heaven.

When I reflect on LA, what I remember is exactly this line from your article:

"It says: no one loves you; you're the least important person in the room; get over it. What matters is what you do there."

After 8 years in the same social group in Los Angeles & the same career path, I got really tired of feeling like I had to continually prove myself. I don't give a shit what you do, I give a shit what you believe. I wanna know what your passionate about & how you care about the world, how you treat people. Fuck what you do, how do you live?

Goodbye LA, visiting will be fun, especially now that I know you so well. I found my personal heaven elsewhere, but yes, I will always love you!!

March 14, 2012 7:57 AM  
Blogger East Meets West said...

San Francisco CRUSHES Chicago. The fact that you'd name the three great cities as NY, LA and Chi only shows that you haven't spent enough time in the City By The Bay

May 02, 2012 8:58 PM  
Blogger Ashley Carey said...

You said it, man.

October 07, 2012 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i believe jeff manaugh (the author) lived in SF for a while. so his LA, Chicago, New York is probably a well informed list, albeit reflecting his opinion which you apparently disagree with.

February 11, 2013 7:29 AM  

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