A couple of weeks after I moved to Los Angeles I met up with a friend of a friend whom I knew casually back in New York. She had moved here a few months prior. Upon spotting me she threw her arms around me and said, “Can you believe we’re here?!” I could not believe it then, and eight and a half years later, I sometimes still have trouble believing it.
But what I really can’t believe now is that I am leaving.
I don’t want to go, but I have to. So, you ask, then why am I leaving? Come on, we’re in Hollywood; in virtually every movie, why does a man do something he does not want to do?
For a woman, of course.
It is a tired, old cliche, but they say people come to Los Angeles to follow their dreams. In this case the cliche seems to be true. It is not always a “Tinseltown” dream, but almost everybody I met here arrived with some kind of dream in mind. Starting over, escaping the past, or yes, to be a star. And as so often happens with dreams, they did not come true. With the dream dead, there was no reason to be in Los Angeles anymore and they left.
Well, my screenwriting dream did not come true, but I was determined to be the one who stayed. Los Angeles just got under my skin. It became a part of me. But then I had to choose between the city I love and the woman I love.
It was a surprisingly difficult decision.
Los Angeles beckons you. You make a conscious decision to move to New York for a job (or a woman, apparently). It is an entirely different state of mind here. You do not come here for a job; you worry about that later. No, you are drawn to Los Angeles for your own personal reason, maybe a reason you do not fully understand. But instinctively, you know the answer is here.
Not everyone understands Los Angeles. People insist on comparing it to traditional cities like New York, London or Paris, and when it does not measure up, they decide that Los Angeles is a terrible place and trash it at every turn. Well guess what? Los Angeles is not New York, London or Paris. It is not trying to be.
Los Angeles is a strange amalgam of city and suburb; not quite one, not quite the other. It has the best of both and the worst of both. You cannot put a label on Los Angeles, but whatever it is, it is extraordinary, and it works.
However, like every city on the globe, Los Angeles is not perfect. But steps are being taken to improve it. A seismic shift is underway (hopefully not literally) that is changing the face of Los Angeles. With the emergence of Downtown, the construction of Grand Park, miles of new bike lanes, more rail service, denser housing to encourage pedestrians and even those little parklets, a new city is emerging. Not just physically, but in the way the people of Los Angeles interact.
People are coming together, experiencing things in crowds which is unlike the Los Angeles of the past. Perhaps no longer will people be sequestered alone in their cars or hiding in their fortresses behind security fences or 20-foot high hedges. We might be entering a new age in Los Angeles where residents finally learn that their fellow citizen, the stranger on the street, is someone to be embraced rather than shunned.
And I’m going to miss all of this.
I will, however, be watching from afar as Los Angeles reinvents itself yet again. I will offer silent support as you fight the good fight against developers hoping to tear down the mid-century masterpieces that once and still should define this city (I’m looking at you, LACMA blob). But I will not be silent when smug New Yorkers turn their noses up at Los Angeles. I will calmly explain what makes this city great. Then I will tell them to screw off and I’ll get up and leave.
I am hoping that this inferiority complex Los Angeles has about New York will slowly go away. There is no reason for Los Angeles to feel inferior to any city, especially New York. People talk about making Los Angeles a “world-class city.” Well, it already is. Never let anyone tell you it is not.
So this will be my last post on this blog. I thought about continuing because there are plenty of things I still would like to say, but it just did not seem fair to critique a city from 3000 miles away. I will keep the domain going because I think I raised some issues that deserve to be discussed further.
If it’s all the same to current Angelenos, I think I will refer to myself as an Angeleno living in New York. Even though I have spent what amounts to a small fraction of my life in Los Angeles, it is just the way I feel. I may not physically be in Los Angeles anymore, but it will remain under my skin. Because regardless of where I live, I will always love Los Angeles. No “buts” this time. Hell, there never really were any, anyway.