Friday, April 09, 2010

Los Angeles


I really didn't expect LA to be beautiful. The parts on LA not on the beach I pictured as a smog-filled concrete jungle. I didn't expect the sunny skies and flowers and palm trees, the green hills, and the vines and grass growing naturally on the sides of the roads. I heard birds chirping outside my room in the mornings, something you wouldn't hear in New York or London.

As for the beach, well, it didn't disappoint. I've seen big bodies of water in my travels the past few years, and I'm very familiar with sand living in the desert, but the last time I saw a real beach was 11 years ago. I wanted to stand at the Santa Monica pier and just stare at the water for hours, even with the cool sea breeze blowing back my hair.


I came back from LA with a new idea of wealth, based on the shopping excursions my friend C. took me on. We walked around a place called The Grove, where we passed Zara, the Apple store, the American Girl store, etc. We finally stepped into a store called Anthropologie. I would pick up things and be so shocked at how much they cost I would put them back down immediately. A soap. I will get myself a soap as a souvenir -- $14?! On second thought, I won't get a soap as a souvenir. There's something immoral to me about spending that much on a bar of soap.

I experienced some sticker shock, but these places stay in business, so there must be people out there who will spend $14 on soap. I don't personally know any of these people, but I did see a lot of BMWs on the freeways and houses high up in the hills.

LA is home to the stars. The names of many of these important people are literally written into the sidewalk on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, lest you forget.

I oohed and aahed over the Kodak Theatre, where the Oscars were held, and of course there was an adjoining shopping center, which seemed a monument to the power of the entertainment industry with its big elephant statues.

I enjoyed being glamour-struck, but I also found displays like this excessive, because my friend certainly isn't rich, and she said she knows a lot of aspiring actors and actresses and filmmakers trying to make it in LA. To me a lot of it just seems like a tease, like this could all be yours...but it most likely won't be, and that is sad to think about.


The traffic in Los Angeles is as bad as its reputation, which is awful. The roads were confusing as hell to me, and the congestion made my El Paso morning and afternoon commutes seem like child's play. It seemed any outing required an elaborate plan: A) How do you get there? Look it up on Google Maps, write it down on a piece of paper. 101, 110, 10, 60, 5, which one do you take? Even with directions it's easy to get lost. B) Get in the car, get to the highway...and wait in traffic. I don't think there was any place we went that took less than 30 minutes to get to. The traffic is bumper-to-bumper, often, depending on the time. Avoid rush hour at all costs. C) Get off the freeway, get near your destination...then drive around for another half hour looking for parking. Which you have to pay for. D) Go to your destination (the beach, the tar pits, the museum), have a great time but be sure to get your parking validated, then E) Do the whole process in reverse.


Besides the traffic and congestion, California has a reputation for liberalism, or what some might call nuttiness. When I first arrived C. showed me around her beautiful house, which she shares with two roommates. On the bookshelves were a mixture of New Age-y and Buddhist-influenced self-help books. "You can eat any of my cereals, and the turkey, since my two roommates are vegetarians," she said. Two vegetarians? She said her roommates would be in and out of the house, and the woman she sublets her room from might be stopping by, too. "See the picture of the nude woman on the living room wall? That's her." It was a tasteful, artistic picture, but still, posting nude photos of yourself on the wall, is this a California thing? (I actually did end up meeting the woman in the picture and she was very nice.)

I turned on the TV one morning and the screen was black. Turns out only the DVD setting worked. How can you not watch regular TV? No "American Idol," no "Daily Show," no TV news? Hmm...

We went to not one, but two, farmer's markets.

My friend got her handwriting analyzed in Santa Monica.

The Scientology center on Hollywood Blvd. has a sign that lights up at night.

I think there's some truth behind the "nuttiness" stereotype.


C. and a couple of her friends and I went to a club one night, and we were hanging out on the back porch talking while one of them smoked. "How do you like LA?" C.'s friend asked. I said I liked it, it was just a lot of driving. "You thinking about moving here soon?" I laughed really hard. "NO." You'd think with all the sunshine and free-thinking vibe, it would be an easier place to live, but on the contrary, LA seems like a city that grinds people down and sends them driving back to their hometowns in tears. Los Angeles is an awesome place, a place much more amazing than I expected. But for all its impressiveness, I'm sure it's not the place for me to be.

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